Photo: Susan MullaneRadu Albot (MDA)
Our featured player from the month of February is 22-year-old Radu Albot from Moldova.
A Davis Cup regular since making his debut in 2007, Albot saw ITF Pro Circuit action in three Turkish tournaments in the latter part of the month having competed in a Russian Challenger during the opening week and representing his nation in a 4-1 loss in the Davis Cup to Belarus. The sole rubber won by Moldova in that defeat was won by Albot in four sets to level the tie at 1-1.
Both the Challenger and Davis Cup tie were held on indoor hard courts but for the three Turkish ITF Pro Circuit tournaments he would be switching to outdoor hard courts.
The opening two tournaments both took place at the same venue in Antalya – Belconti and here Albot was top seed in singles and doubles during both tournaments. His doubles partner on both occasions being his compatriot Andrei Ciumac.
In the first tournament he opened against Kuwaiti qualifier Mohammad Ghareeb against whom he recorded a 63 63 win. The second round saw his Turkish opponent, Wild Card entrant Tuna Altuna, get off to a fast start and with only two game wins to his name in the set, Albot dropped the set 62.
Although this would have brought delight to the ‘home’ crowd this would be short lived as Albot fought his way back into the match and took the next two sets 62 63. He followed this win up with a straight sets win to knock out the eighth seed and move into the semifinal.
Seeded opposition faced Albot once more and also for the second time during the event he dropped the first set. His fifth seeded foe, Gleb Sakharov from France, failed to take advantage and push on for the win as Albot hit back strongly to wrap up a 46 63 61 win.
Although he had had some tricky matches he was now, as expected as top seed, in the final, his first since May 2011. Facing him in this title match was seventh seeded Daniel Smethurst from Great Britain.
Albot, with a 63 win, took the opening set of the final but Smethurst drew level in a close second set 75 win. A deciding set was therefore required with the winner being crowned champion and buoyed by having just won the second set it was the Brit who remained in the ascendancy and reeled off six successive games to take the title 36 75 60.
Disappointment also came Albot’s way in the doubles final which saw him and partner Ciumac lose in two close sets to the Belgian pair Germain Gigounon & Yannik Reuter having not lost a set in the previous three rounds leading into the final.
Albot quickly had to put the two final losses behind him as his second tournament of the month was held in the same venue.
Once more as top seed in both events, Albot enjoyed runs to both the singles and doubles finals, although he nearly experienced an early exit in the singles.
Faced by French qualifier Tristan Lamasine, Albot, who would have been expected to progress, lost the first set 63 and had to come through two close sets 64 and 75 to stay in the competition!
Thankfully for Albot he was able to win in the next two rounds in straight sets to set up a semifinal with Filip Horansky. The young Slovakian was entered into the tournament via the Junior Exempt Programme having finished 2011 as the ITF Junior World Number eight.
Albot took his place in the final after seeing off a spirited fight from Horansky in three sets, 62 46 75. This gave him the chance to immediately ensure last week’s final defeat was quickly forgotten.
Alexander Lobkov from Russia provided the opposition in the final which got off to a very tight start with a tie break required to decide the set. With a 7-5 points score it was Albot who took the set to lead the final.
From here he only lost a further three games as he claimed a first title since May 2011. No such luck though in the doubles final as in what was an all too familiar scenario throughout their career together, Albot & Ciumac lost out in the title match. This latest final defeat brought their win-loss record in ITF Pro Circuit doubles finals to 3-10.
Albot’s month came to a close in Antalya – Kaya Belek, again as top seed in singles and with Ciumac in the doubles.
There was to be no third final in succession for the pair though as they lost out in the semifinal on a match tie break [10-6] having been a set up.
Albot did, however, make it through to a third successive singles final. This amazing feat matching his run, also in Turkey, back in early 2011 when he also claimed all three titles! Having already lost a final this week, he couldn’t equal last year’s hat trick of wins but he could at least ensure he ended the month on a high note.
The first three rounds in Antalya – Kaya Belek saw Albot triumph in straight sets and he claimed a final spot with a close 63 36 63 win over Britain’s Edward Corrie.
This semifinal win set up a final that would see the tournament’s top two seeded players up against each other. Hungarian 12-time ITF Pro Circuit singles champion Adam Kellner put up a strong fight in the opening set but the second seed could not prevent Albot signing off the week in style as he ran out a 76(5) 62 winner.
Radu Albot’s career win-loss record in singles finals now stood at 8-3 and with the release of the 5 March 2012 ATP rankings, Albot had climbed to a career high of 235 in the singles rankings. Despite the doubles disappointments he also improved to 255 in the ATP doubles charts, also a new personal career high!