By Paul Levine
|© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images|
LOS ANGELES (Ticker) - After a one-year absence, Tommy Haas has returned to the winner's circle at the $500,000 Countrywide Classic.
The sixth seed and 2004 champion from Germany, Haas overcame a determined upset bid to defeat hard-hitting Dmitry Tursunov, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, in steamy conditions at the UCLA Tennis Center on Sunday in the final of the U.S. Open Series event.
Haas claimed his 10th career title and third of 2006 by turning away the eighth-seeded Russian, who was playing in his first career ATP Tour championship match. But earning the $69,000 winner's check did not come easily
The 28-year-old Haas had played a sparkling brand of tennis the entire week, dropping just one set against Australian Wayne Arthurs, Chilean Paul Capdeville, American Paul Goldstein and seventh-seeded Slovakian Dominik Hrbaty en route to reaching the final.
However, the 23-year-old Tursunov offered stiffer competition than the others. Utilizing a punishing ground game and a booming serve, the California resident kept Haas off-balance for much of the first set, capturing it following a lone service break in the fifth game.
Haas erased two break points in the third game of the second set, then capitalized on a second break point in the 12th game to level the match when Tursunov smacked a forehand into the net.
After taking the middle set, Haas began to pick up steam, racing to a 4-1 lead with a service break in the second game. Though he was unable to capitalize on additional break chances, Haas maintained his early advantage and ended the encounter in 2 hours, 3 minutes with a service winner.