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Amritraj falls under Magician's spell

Last updated on: July 14, 2008 09:41 IST

'Magician' Fabrice Santoro broke Prakash Amritraj's spell, beating the Indian 6-3, 7-5 in the final of the Campbell's Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport on Sunday.

In defending his title, the 35-year-old Santoro became the oldest player to win the tourney and the oldest to win an ATP event since 1980. Andre Agassi won three events in 2005 when he was 35-years old.

"When you start a career at 16 years old, never, ever can you imagine you'll win a tournament 20 years later. I played my first French Open in 1989," Santoro said. "I have the same passion for the game as five, 10, 15 years ago, maybe more."

After a nervous start, which saw both players break serve in the first two games, it was Santoro who seized control with a second break of the Prakash serve for a 3-1 lead. He wrapped up the first set in 30 minutes, winning 18 of 27 service points.

The second set went with serve until the 11th game, when Santoro converted his fifth break point opportunity of the match for a 6-5 lead.

Santoro, nicknamed the 'Magician' for the wide variety of shots and his ambi-dextrous play, clinched his sixth career ATP title with a service hold to love.

The ranking disparity between Santoro (No. 57) and Amritraj (305) was the largest difference in ranking between two participants in an ATP final since Washington, D.C. in 2007 when No. 5 Andy Roddick defeated No. 416 John Isner (a difference of 411).

Prakash, 24, is the first Indian to make a final of the tournament since Leander Paes claimed the title in 1998.

His father, Vijay, won the tournament in 1976, when it was an exhibition event, and then again in 1980 and 1984 when the tournament became an official stop on the men's circuit.

Vijay Amritraj, who won 13 titles in 26 career finals, watched his son from behind the baseline.

"We talked after the match. He told me my strategy was right, but I just needed to be a little more aggressive," Prakash said.

Santoro collected $64,000 for the title while Amritraj earned $32,000.

"I'm just very happy on the court, to have the trophy in my hands," a smiling Santoro said.