- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2006

As the first set entered a tiebreaker, the singles title match seemed on par with the rest of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic — close, methodically played and determined by tiebreakers.

But Andy Murray ended up handing Arnaud Clement the second set and the championship 7-6 (3), 6-2 yesterday at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center.

Trailing 5-4 in the second set, Murray appeared to have injured his right hand. He constantly rubbed it and looked at it after each point.

Murray had two different blisters on his racquet hand that he said developed Saturday night. They burst in the first set.

“You try not to think about it, but it’s just a little bit of a distraction when you don’t hit the ball right at the middle of the racquet,” Murray said. “The grip turns a little bit in your hand and opens the blister a bit more. It stings. You get a bit of sweat in it, it’s just uncomfortable. … You can still play, but it’s not very comfortable.”

Down 2-0 in the second set, Murray had a trainer tape his hand and then resumed play.

But Clement won eight of the next nine points and controlled the rest of the match.

“I’ve never had blisters, so I’ve never needed to play with tape before,” said Murray, who was unable to get a set-point opportunity in the first set. “Tape makes your hand a little bit thicker and your grip feels uncomfortable. It’s not a huge change, but if you are used to doing something all your life and then there is an extra little something there, you feel the difference.”

Murray, No. 35 in the world, hit 12 unforced errors in the second set. Clement hit just four.

Clement won 67 percent of his service points and broke Murray’s serve four times. He also dominated the net, winning 69 percent of his net shot approaches.

Clement had never advanced past the quarterfinals of the Legg Mason. But yesterday marked his first singles title in an American tournament in his 10-year career.

He didn’t drop a set the entire tournament as he knocked out third-seeded Lleyton Hewitt and fifth-seeded Dominik Hrbaty en route to his second singles title of the year.

“I don’t know, I’ve played a lot of tiebreaks this week and I won all of them,” Clement said. “So I have lots of confidence, lots of everything. Everything was perfect today in my game and my fitness.”

Clement, who entered the tournament ranked 57th in the world, faced Murray once before, winning in five sets in the first round of the 2005 U.S. Open.

Clement improved to 17-14 on the year and likely will crack the top 50 when the new world rankings are released.

In the doubles final, Bob and Mike Bryan defended their title with a match tiebreaker victory.

The top-seeded Bryan brothers slammed the second-seeded team of Paul Hanley and Kevin Ullyett 6-3, 5-7, 1-0 (10-3, match tiebreaker).

Hanley and Ullyett were the last team to beat the Bryans when they did it at the Queen’s Club semifinals in June.

With that defeat fresh in their minds, the Bryans put on a clinic in the first set. They covered the court well, ended points quickly and defended several seemingly impossible points in a set that took just 26 minutes to complete.

But the Bryans lost their rhythm in the second set as both teams tightened up their service games to force a match tiebreaker. Each duo only broke serve once the entire match, but the Bryans had an edge by winning 71 percent of their service points.

“It never really slipped out of our hands,” Mike Bryan said. “We never thought we were losing control of the match.”

Under the new ATP rules introduced in January, a first to 10 points tiebreaker replaces a traditional third set.

Tied 3-3 in the match tiebreaker, Hanley miss-hit a backhand into the net as the Bryans were scrambling to get back in position. That unforced error proved costly as the Bryans ran away with the match — their fifth title this year and 31st of their career.

“They are very good with keeping the momentum and going with it,” Ullyett said. “We had a little chance and a window there and you know you get it and you either take it or you don’t.”

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