Estoril - Top seed Juan Martin del Potro retained his title here at the Estoril Open on Sunday after inflicting a 6-4, 6-2 defeat on second seed Richard Gasquet.
The Argentine world number 12 became the third man in the tournament's history to win the clay title in successive years, following in the footsteps of Thomas Muster (1995-1996) and Albert Montanes (2009-2010).
It was also Del Potro's second title of the season after his victory in Marseille in February, and his 11th of a career that includes a US Open success in 2009.
“I just played my game and raised my level all week,” said Del Potro. “Today was my best match. To win two titles here is great.
“I played aggressive all the way and served well. I'm gaining confidence on my forehand, which is important to my game. My confidence is building and I hope to take it even further next week in Madrid.
“I'm moving closer to my best form, but I still need to work to get there. The more matches you win, the more your confidence grows,” added the player who has lost only one set in two years at Estoril.
The loss left Gasquet still looking for his first ATP trophy since triumphing in Nice in May 2010.
“He played very well,” said the Frenchman. “He's very powerful, has a great service, and a great forehand and backhand. He deserved this win.
“He played better than me. He's very tall and has a good second serve and was hitting the ball very well. He was the better player today.
“It's always disappointing to lose a final. I've lost five times to (Novak) Djokovic and (Roger) Federer (in previous finals); now Del Potro. They were better than me.
“It's good for me to reach a final. It was a good tournament to prepare for the clay season. I'll get confidence from this tournament.”
The final was played in sunny conditions after wind and rain affected the early days of the event at the Estadio Nacional.
Del Potro broke to love in the first game to set the tone, but Gasquet put up a fight throughout an opening set that lasted 54 minutes.
The Frenchman, renowned for his flawless one-handed backhand, saved break points in the fifth and seventh games before his South American opponent sealed the set with a concluding break.
Del Potro then began the second set with a break of serve and turned up the pressure to run out the winner with six aces and three breaks of serve in just under 90 minutes on court.
The Argentine did win a pair of Davis Cup rubbers on clay against Croatia six weeks ago but he will still be delighted to triumph in what was his first tour clay event of the season after he chose to skip Monte Carlo and train at home.
He has now appeared in four finals on clay in his career and won the lot, while Gasquet missed the chance to become the first man from France to win the Portuguese title since the event began in 1990.
He also lost the 2007 final to a then up-and-coming Djokovic. - Sapa-AFP