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Best of 2018: First-Time Winners Part 2

Continuing our Season In Review series, pays tribute to the first-time winners of the 2018 season. In part two of our two-part series, we look at the year’s final six first-time winners.
Mischa Zverev – Eastbourne [First-Time Winner Spotlight] 
Employing an exclusive serve-and-volley gameplan, Mischa Zverev turned back the clock to take his first ATP World Tour title at the Nature Valley International in June. Zverev lifted his maiden trophy on the grass of Eastbourne with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Lukas Lacko, sprinting forward and slicing and dicing his way to the crown after one hour and 37 minutes.
It was a long time coming for then 30-year-old Zverev, who dropped as low as No. 1067 in March 2015 after dealing with a series of injuries.
“It feels amazing,” said Zverev. “It was definitely one of the emotional moments in my life… I always wanted to win at least a title. For many years I didn’t believe in myself. I didn’t think I was going to do it, especially when I was ranked No. 1100.
“But thank God I have my family and my brother and the whole team, my wife who is always telling me, ‘No, you can achieve things, you can do big things. Just believe in yourself, work hard, and it’s going to pay off one day.’ Luckily I have them and luckily I was able to listen to them, believe in myself, and just keep working and wait for it. Finally, I’m here. It’s incredible.”

Matteo Berrettini – Gstaad [First-Time Winner Spotlight] 
Prior to arriving in Gstaad, Matteo Berrettini had never reached a tour-level quarter-final. But after beating three seeded opponents in five matches at the J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad, the Italian lifted his first ATP World Tour trophy.
Berrettini saved two set points in a tense first set before clinching the only break of the match to beat Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6(9), 6-4 in one hour and 45 minutes. The 22-year-old Gstaad debutant, who also captured his maiden tour-level doubles trophy at the event, won each of his 49 service games en route to the title, navigating his way past fourth seed Andrey Rublev, eighth seed Feliciano Lopez and second-seeded Bautista Agut along the way.
“[It was an] unbelievable week,” said Berrettini. “I think I played the best tennis of my life and I am really happy.” 

Nikoloz Basilashvili – Hamburg [First-Time Winner Spotlight] 
Having trailed 3-5 in the third set of his final-round qualifying match, it seemed unlikely that Nikoloz Basilashvili would reach the main draw at the German Tennis Championships 2018 presented by Kampmann. But that did not stop the World No. 81 from making national history.
After rallying from behind to qualify for the ATP World Tour 500 event, the Georgian navigated his way past three Top 40 players to become the first man from his nation to capture an ATP World Tour title. Basilashvili defeated two-time Hamburg titlist Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 0-6, 7-5 in the championship match to rise to No. 35 in the ATP Rankings, setting another Georgian record.
“What a match today. I’m extremely tired, I played seven matches. I literally gave, in every match, my heart,” Basilashvili said on court after the victory. “I’m pretty sure every player worked so hard for this, but it’s an unbelievable moment for me.”

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Yoshihito Nishioka – Shenzhen [First-Time Winner Spotlight]  
Just 18 months after tearing his left ACL at the 2017 Miami Open presented by Itau, Yoshihito Nishioka became the sixth qualifier to win a tour-level title in 2018 at the Shenzhen Open, beating Pierre-Hugues Herbert 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.
“I believe this is the beginning,” said Nishioka. “[Now I will] try to win [ATP World Tour] 500 and [Masters] 1000 events… This is a very happy [moment] and I believe I can win more.”
Nishioka, who saved two match points at 7-6(5), 3-6, 4-5 (15/40) against Denis Shapovalov in the second round, won 61 per cent of second-serve return points and withstood 12 aces from Herbert to lift his first tour-level trophy after two hours and 20 minutes.

Stefanos Tsitsipas – Stockholm [First-Time Winner Spotlight] 
#NextGenATP Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas made history at the Intrum Stockholm Open. The 20-year-old, who had reached championship matches in Barcelona and Toronto earlier in the season, defeated qualifier Ernests Gulbis 6-4, 6-4 to become the first Greek to capture an ATP World Tour title.
Tsitsipas dominated on serve, winning 80 per cent of his service points and saving the only break point he faced. The No. 3 seed dropped the second set of his opening-round match against John Millman, but then won seven consecutive sets to emerge victorious in the Swedish capital.
“Of course I feel happy because I’m the first Greek [to win a title]. Hopefully many Greek players can achieve something like this. I would be super happy to see them achieve something like this in the future,” Tsitsipas said. “Representing my country at such high-level tournaments, being the first Greek to crack the Top 100 is very, very special for me.”

Kyle Edmund – Antwerp [First-Time Winner Spotlight] 
After opening the season in style with a surprise run to the Australian Open semi-finals, Kyle Edmund became the final first-time winner of the 2018 season at the European Open in Antwerp. The British No. 1 claimed his maiden tour-level crown in dramatic fashion, defeating Frenchman Gael Monfils 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(4) after two hours and 27 minutes.
If there was any doubt that the moment meant a lot to the British No. 1, Edmund broke down into tears as he walked over to celebrate with his team after crushing a forehand winner down the line to clinch the milestone victory.
“I’m obviously very happy. A lot of hard work goes into this. So it’s just emotional,” Edmund said on court. “You always remember this one. Gael made me work for it today, that’s for sure, so credit to him. I’m just so happy.”

Source: ATP