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Koubek Grabs Citrix Title


Stefan Koubek hasn't had much practice making victory speeches, and it showed.

Koubek gave qualifier Alex Calatrava too much credit after beating the Spaniard 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 Sunday in the final of the Citrix Championships.

"Thanks to Alex for letting me win," Koubek told the crowd, sounding a bit embarrassed. But, in fact, the young Austrian did plenty to earn only his second ATP Tour title and his first on hardcourts.

A 23-year-old, grunting, left-handed baseliner reminiscent of countryman Thomas Muster, Koubek was faster and fresher than Calatrava. Koubek chased down shots from sideline to sideline and appeared ready to run all day in the warm Florida sun if necessary.

In short, Koubek looked a lot like Muster, his hero growing up.

"I have a lot of respect for him his will, and the way he focused," Koubek said. "I like that about him."

Koubek, seeded sixth, showed considerable resilience after blowing the second set. He won the first set in 25 minutes and took a 4-2 lead in the second set before Calatrava rallied, winning 11 consecutive points.

Koubek blamed the lapse on a loss of concentration after he disputed a line call.

"I sometimes lose it," he said. "I was getting a little mad, but I shouldn't. That's why I lost the second set."

He regrouped to break serve in the opening game of the final set.

"Then he was relaxed again and confident," Calatrava said.

Calatrava's arduous week took a toll, too. He had to win seven matches in eight days including three victories in qualifying to reach his second career final.

"At the end, even if you don't want to admit it, you're a little late on shots, and it can cost you," he said.

Koubek held serve without facing a break point in the final set. He earned $46,000 for the victory, and Calatrava received $27,000.

The pairing was a surprise in a field that included Patrick Rafter, Michael Chang and Chris Woodruff.

"It was a wonderful week for me," Calatrava said. "I played my best tennis today, but Stefan was too good."

Koubek's only other ATP Tour title came last year at Atlanta on clay, his best surface. He won only two matches on hardcourts in 1999.

"If somebody had told me a year ago I would win a tournament on hardcourts in one year's time, I would have laughed," Koubek said. "But I've found out how to play on hardcourts and how to move.

B>"My game is suited for the surface, but I just never felt right. Now I know what to do, and I'm serving better, which is important."

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