MELBOURNE (AFP) -Spain’s Fernando Verdasco claimed a second title five years after his first at the Kooyong Classic on Friday when opponent Alexandr Dolgopolov was forced to retire with a knee injury.
With the Australian Open starting on Monday, the Ukrainian now fears he will not be able to play after feeling pain in the first set and retiring after losing the opener against his 31-year-old opponent 7-6 (7/3) in 44 minutes.
“I may need surgery,” said world number-23 Dolgopolov, who missed more than two months in August and September with injury problems.
Verdasco won the title at the eight-man Grand Slam tune-up in 2010, beating France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Verdasco admitted he had been husbanding his physical resources after playing at Kooyong on Wednesday and then going on court at Melbourne Park at night in an exhibition with Rafael Nadal.
The Spaniard will use the win to bolster confidence when he plays Spanish-speaking Briton James Ward in the Open first round.
With one day a total washout of the four-day special event, compromises had to be made with scheduling.
As a result, the 33rd-ranked Verdasco and Dolgopolov reached the final as a result of winning their only other matches this week in straight sets. In the playoff for third place, Frenchman Richard Gasquet beat Japan’s Kei Nishikori 7-6(7/4), 7-6 (8/6).Gasquet will begin at next week’s start of the Australian Open against Argentine Carlos Berlocq.
Nishikori also got in some prime practice for the major at Melbourne Park.