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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Becker takes Price LeBlanc title

Beats Ram in three sets at Lamar Tennis Center
It was a story of two break points.

On one, Benjamin Becker avoided the break with a powerful serve and, with the help of a net chord, held serve.

On the other, Rajeev Ram saw Becker make the shot he couldn’t, a passing shot winner that lifted Becker to a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 win over Ram in the final of the Price LeBlanc Lexus Pro Tennis Classic on Saturday at the Lamar Tennis Center.

Becker, a German ranked No. 131 in the world, survived the break point at 4-4 in the third set. Ram was up 40-15 in the next game before Becker rallied to win the match’s final four points against what had been a dominant service game of Ram.

“You win tennis matches, especially in a final with a lot at stake, when you just make those few points,” said Becker, who picked up his second Challenger win of the year. The first came in Heilbronn, Germany, in January. “Today, I got lucky. I saved my break point, and when I had match point, I just went for it and it went my way.

“That’s how you win tournaments. It doesn’t always happen like that, but it happened today for me.”

Ram, who went on to team with Bobby Reynolds for the doubles championship later in the day, was frustrated by a rough first set where he lost his first two service games.

“He’s very accomplished,” said Ram, an Indiana native, of Becker. “When you don’t bring your best level, you are going to get beat. There are days when that happens, and there’s nothing you can do about it but try to right the ship as quickly as possible. And I thought I did that well, but came up a little bit short at the end.”

It looked like it was going to be Ram’s match to win.

After Ram struggled through a first set where the serve-and-volleyer missed more than half his first serves and lost seven of nine points on his second serve, he found his service game and took control of the match.

Ram won his last two service games of the first set and used his only break of Becker’s serve of the day to go up 4-2 in the second set that eventually became a 6-3 win to force the third set.

“He played really well in the second set,” Becker said. “I had to make tough passing shots and he starting serving a lot better, which made it harder for me to return and get easy looks on passing shots. It made a difference. He played a good game to break me, he hit two winners, and in the third set I just tried to hang in.”

And hang in, by a thread, he did.

First, he came back from a break point that would have allowed Ram a chance to serve for the tournament title up 5-4 had Ram converted. Then, down 40-15 on Ram’s serve, Becker kept plugging away, never giving a thought to what seemed like an inevitable 5-5 third set deadlock.

“When you start looking ahead, it’s 40-15 and you’re still in there. If you make two points, it’s deuce,” Becker said. “He has a lot of pressure. He has to hold the game, because if he doesn’t, the match is over. So I just wanted to stay in there, make my return and make him win the game. It worked out. He made a couple of errors and I made a couple of returns.”

At 40-15 and 40-30 Ram missed on volleys coming to the net. Then at deuce and championship point, Becker hit passing shot winners before turning toward the clubhouse, both hands balled into fists, in celebration of the win.

“Just a couple of things here and there,” Ram said. “But overall I was happy with the way I competed.”

Ram and fellow American Reynolds, the world’s No. 30-ranked doubles team, had to go into a third set to beat the team of Indian Harsh Mankad and American Scott Oudsema, 6-3, 6-7 (6-8), 10-3 in the doubles final.

In that match, Ram was able to finish off a championship he didn’t in singles after Mankad and Oudsema rallied from down 5-3 in the second set, with Reynolds serving.

“It looked like it was going to be pretty comfortable,” Ram said. “That’s the way doubles goes. They hit a shank return lob winner (at double championship point) and they play a couple of good points, and the next thing you know you’re in a tie-breaker.”

But the Reynolds-Ram team prevailed in the third set and are looking forward to bigger things as a doubles team.

Together, they’ve made the third round of three of the four Grand Slams, and they’ll team up again at the next Gram Slam, the French Open.

“We complement each other well,” Ram said.

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