Ninth-seeded Yannick Noah, using his strong serve, defeated Miloslav Mecir, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4), to win the $350,000 Italian Open Tennis Championships today.
Noah, with his first major tournament victory since he won the French Open in 1983, spoiled Mecir's 21st birthday on the clay courts at the Foro Italico.
After a see-saw first two sets, Noah began moving out in front as his serve and net game wore down his opponent. Noah scored five aces in the fourth set to overcome an early service break. Mecir broke back in the 10th game to set the stage for the tie breaker.
But Noah, who turned 25 Saturday, took a 4-1 lead in winning the tie breaker and $56,000.
"I was a little tired but not very nervous," Mecir said after the 3-hour 5-minute final, which was best-of-five. All other matches were best-of-three.
Noah credited the victory to his willingness to take risks at the end of the match -- such as rushing the net to volley rather than relying on passing shots -- and to his new, more settled image.
"A few years ago . . . I had nice long hair and a playboy image. Now I'm married and have a child," he said. "I just can't wait to play the French Open because I feel I am ready."