Mischa Zverev served and volleyed his way to his first ATP Tour title with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Lukas Lacko at the Nature Valley International in Eastbourne.
The German world No. 65 controlled proceedings in a close encounter on the South coast to ensure the perfect grass-court preparation ahead of Wimbledon next week.
In a high-quality opening set Zverev started the stronger and managed to break a nervy Lacko in the first game after racing to a 0-40 lead.
Both players survived break points in tight deuce games mid-set but Slovakian world No. 94 Lacko had to work harder to avoid a further break as Zverev’s patience frustrated him.
Lacko sensed an opening at 4-3, edging to a 0-30 lead with a fine backhand passing shot and a powerful forehand down the line, but a succession of errors allowed Zverev to battle back and hold serve.
The unforced error count of 11 to 8 proved the difference and — despite Lacko’s powerful attack — Zverev came through in relative comfort with a succession of clever serve-volley combinations to win 6-4.
With both players fighting for a first ATP Tour title there was little sign of tiredness despite them playing semfinals less than 24 hours earlier.
Zverev had overcome Mikhail Kukushkin 7-6 (9), 6-4, while Lacko defeated French Open semifinalist Marco Cecchinato 6-3, 6-4.
In the second set the pivotal moment came at 2-2 in an energy-sapping, 13-minute long Lacko service game. The Slovakian had to scramble time and again, saving five break points as Zverev repeatedly exerted pressure on his opponent.
At the sixth time of asking the world No. 65 converted with a classic forehand passing shot, leaving Lacko in deep trouble a set and a break down.
After that Zverev remained relatively untroubled, smashing down left-handed serves which Lacko rarely managed to muster a significant response to and closing the door quickly whenever he threatened to get back on terms.
He finished off with a trademark ace swerving away from his opponent to confirm his first ATP Tour title.
“I’m really really happy. It was finally the right surface. This final is my favourite surface and I could finally prove it,” savid Zverev.
“Even a couple of years ago I was ranked 1100 in the world but I didn’t want to quit before I won at least a title.”
“When I saw the draw I actually noticed there were no serve-volleyers except me and I thought maybe I would have a good chance.”
“Thanks to my parents for making me become a leftie because that helps a lot on grass.”
In defeat Lacko remained positive, admitting his decision to play at Eastbourne had been made at the last minute.
“I had no plans to play here and I was not practicing the week before the tournament so standing here in the final is something special,” he said.
“I like grass and I am looking forward to more good results on grass. Tonight I’ll enjoy the moment and try to prepare for Wimbledon.”
Lacko starts his Wimbledon campaign against French qualifier Benjamin Bonzi and could face eight-time champion Roger Federer in the second round if he gets through.
Meanwhile Zverev will play Pierre hugues-Herbert in the first round with a potential clash with Rafael Nadal waiting in the third round.