With none of his usual rivals standing in the way, David Ferrer finally won a Masters final on his fourth attempt.
Polish qualifier Jerzy Janowicz came up short on his first try, but not before leaving the impression that he could well earn another chance soon.
The fourth-seeded Ferrer beat Janowicz 6-4, 6-3 Sunday in the Paris Masters final for the biggest win of his career and ATP tour-leading seventh title of the year. He had lost twice to Rafael Nadal and once to Andy Murray in his previous Masters finals— but didn't have to face a Grand Slam winner this time.
That didn't make the victory any less special. As soon as he clinched the win, the normally unflappable Spaniard collapsed to the court, lying face down as he screamed in jubilation. He then sprinted over to hug his coach and girlfriend in the stands.
"I feel the pressure more than him, because I played three times in a Masters final," Ferrer said. "He's a young player. It was the first final for him, without pressure. "
Ferrer converted his first match point when Janowicz's two-handed backhand was wide. Ferrer's seven tournament titles this season is one more than Roger Federer, who did not defend his title in Paris.
The tournament was thrown wide open when both Novak Djokovic and Murray went out in the early rounds, leaving Ferrer as the highest-ranked player in the draw.
"I was very nervous because it was my chance to win a first Masters title, but somehow I knew it was my turn," Ferrer said. "To me this is a dream to win here. If I won it's because I have a great team."
Janowicz, who beat five top 20-ranked players on the way to the final, had celebrated each of his unlikely wins wildly to become an overnight crowd favourite. But the breakthrough week finally seemed to have taken a toll.
"I was actually exhausted, almost," he said. "During the last three nights I didn't sleep much. ... Also I didn't have an appetite, so I didn't eat too good.
"Today my serve and my strokes were not that accurate and not that fast," he added. "At the beginning of the match my hand was really heavy, and [that] is a sign of tiredness already. But David played today really good tennis. "
The 30-year-old Ferrer says he is in the best form of his career, but still thinks he is some way from matching the game's top players.
"Maybe I won more titles than Federer, but Federer won the important titles. Federer or Djokovic or Andy Murray, not me," he said. "I will try to improve my game."
The 69th-ranked Janowicz made an improbable run to the final thanks largely to his massive serve, but his main weapon wasn't as effective in the final.
Janowicz, who had previously reached only one career quarterfinal — in Moscow last month — is projected to climb to 26th in the rankings.
He was playing in his first final and looking to become the first qualifier to win a Masters title since Albert Portas won in Hamburg 11 years ago. The last qualifier to reach the final in Paris was Radek Stepanek in 2004.
The last player to reach a Masters final on his debut was Harel Levy of Israel in 2000. He lost to Marat Safin in Toronto. Safin also beat Stepanek in the Paris final.
Janowicz plans to take three weeks off and enjoy his winnings of C234, 865.
"For sure some party, for sure some rest, and in few weeks I will already start to prepare myself for the new season," he said. "Beginning of this year my goal was to be top 100 and suddenly I am top 30 in the world, so of course I would like to be as high as possible. ... I would love to be top 10 one day."
In the fourth game of the match, the entertaining Janowicz hit a booming serve of 242 kilometres per hour (150 mph) and drew cheers from the crowd at the Bercy arena when he followed up an extravagant drop shot with a spectacular volley winner.
Ferrer was briefly troubled in the ninth game when Janowicz forced the first break point of the match, but the Pole wasted it after hitting an unforced error into net.
In the next game, Janowicz saved one break point with an ace, before gifting Ferrer another chance with a double-fault. Ferrer converted it when Janowicz's loose forehand went long.
Janowicz started the second set brightly and broke Ferrer in the third game. The Spaniard's forehand was called in and Janowicz challenged it, drawing a huge roar when the big screen showed it landing out and prompting a beaming smile from the Pole.
Ferrer broke back in the next game for 2-2, saved two break points in the next and then broke Janowicz again to take control at 4-2.