RIO DE JANEIRO (REUTERS) - Laslo Djere won his first ATP title at the Rio Open on Sunday (Feb 24) and then captured the hearts of the Brazilian crowd with a victory speech dedicated to his parents, both of whom died of cancer.
The unseeded Serb beat Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 7-5 in the final to cap the best week of his career before choking back the tears as he dedicated the trophy to his parents.
"I lost my mum seven years ago so I want to dedicate this one to her," he said to wild applause from the crowd.
"And also to my dad, I lost him two months ago. My parents had the biggest impact on me and, because of them, I am who I am today. I hope they are watching me now."
Radu Albot, meanwhile, made history of his own, when he saved three championship points to beat Dan Evans 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (9-7) in the Delray Beach Open final in Florida on Sunday and become the first player from Moldova to win an ATP title.
In a high-quality match that stretched for nearly three hours, Albot displayed nerves of steel in the dramatic final tiebreak, staving off defeat with a series of clutch shots.
As for the 23-year-old Djere, ranked 90th in the world coming into the Rio tournament, he broke twice in the decisive second set to beat Auger-Aliassime, who was the youngest man to reach an ATP 500 final.
The plucky 18-year-old Canadian saved four match points before succumbing to the unseeded right-hander, who had not won a match on clay all season and had never beaten a top 10 rival until he arrived in Rio.
He hammered world No. 8 Dominic Thiem in the first round, however, and did not lose a set on his way to clinching the title in impressive style.
Djere broke Auger-Aliassime six times in the two-hour final and was commanding with both his powerful forehands and two-handed backhands.
"It's been the week of my dreams," he added. "So many things have been achieved here. I'm really happy, excited and emotional now."
Auger-Aliassime became just the fourth teenager to reach the final of an ATP 500 event - the 13 tournaments which rank just below the Masters series - since the level was created in 2009.
In the US, British qualifier Evans missed his match-point opportunities by the barest of margins and then, with Albot on his first match point, double-faulted to hand the Moldovan the title.
The crowd was quiet for a few seconds before the ball was confirmed wide and Albot started to celebrate. "It feels unbelievable," said the 29-year-old, currently ranked 82nd but projected to rise to around 50th when the rankings are updated on Monday.
"You work your whole life, your whole career, and at the end you win a tournament.
"It was not in the plan losing the first set and then coming back but it worked out pretty good.
"If you want to win the match you need to win two sets. I still had chances, I got chances and I used them."