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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, February 25, 2018

 
Karen Khachanov

Karen Khachanov edged French No. 1 Lucas Pouille, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, becoming the first Russian man in 17 years to win the Marseille title.

Photo credit: Open13 Provence Facebook

Chants from French fans mingled with music from a brass band created a festive climax to the Marseille final.

Karen Khachanov quieted the sounds with convincing flurries.

More: Tiafoe Tops Shapovalov For First Final

Cranking deep drives, Khachanov broke in the final game edging French No. 1 Lucas Pouille, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, to collect his second career title in Marseille.

The explosive 6'6" Khachanov served 68 percent, pumped 16 aces and permitted only eight points on his second serve.




Even more impressively, Khachanov competed with conviction facing Pouille's all-court attack and vocal French fans eager to see a Frenchman raise the title trophy for the fourth time in the last six years.

None of that mattered much to Khachanov, who claimed his first ATP championship since he won the 2016 Chengdu in his first Tour-level final. The world No. 47 knocked off two Top 20 players—Pouille and 17th-ranked Tomas Berdych in the semifinals—raising his career finals record to 2-0.

The 21-year-old Moscow native is the first Russian in 17 years to raise the title trophy, joining Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who defeated Frenchman SΓ©bastien Grosjean in the 2001 final.

Friends and frequent practice partners collaborated on some stirring rallies throughout the final and shared a warm embrace at net before Pouille reminded the victor this win comes at a cost.

"You're gonna pay the plane for Dubai now," Pouille told Khachanov during the trophy presentation. "It's a joke between him and me. Congratulations for your week. You played unbelievable and also for your team working very hard. I hope many more wins to come for you."

In this celebration year of the Open 13 Provence's silver anniversary, Pouille was playing for his second title of the year after knocking off compatriots Benoit Paire, Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win Montpellier earlier this month.

It's the second straight Marseille final setback for Pouille, who fell to compatriot Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-4, 6-4, in last year's final.

The third-seeded Pouille brought fans to their feet surging through the second set to force a decider.

Midway through the final set, the level of play elevated amid escalating tension.

Down 15-30 in the eighth game, Pouille used a forehand drive volley and overhead to hold.

The ninth seed slid an ace out wide holding at 15 for 5-4. Serving to extend the final, Pouille stamped a love hold to level after 10 games.

Precision serving under pressure ultimately decided the match. At 30-all, Khachanov caught the corner with another slider ace navigating a tense hold for 6-5.

The 16th-ranked Pouille pushed a backhand beyond the baseline giving Khachanov championship point. Playing an aggressive point, Khachanov did the right thing attacking behind a forehand down the line. Pouille flicked a lob and Khachanov, with the title in sight, dragged an open-court overhead wide.




That was a temporary reprieve. Pouille netted his fourth double fault handing his practice partner a second championship point.

Straddling the baseline, Khachanov clubbed crosscourt backhands coaxing the Frenchman to net a forehand as a triumphant Khachanov thrust his arms in the air capping a one hour, 49-minute victory.

 

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