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Karlovic Beats Qualifier to Capture First ATP Title
    2007-04-16 06:35:39     AFP

Croatia's Ivo Karlovic, seen here in action in February 2007, won his first ATP title here Sunday, defeating qualifier Mariano Zabaleta of Argentina 6-4, 6-1 in the final of the 416,000-dollar ATP US Clay Court Championship. [Photo: AFP/Getty Images/File/Christian Petersen]

HOUSTON, United States (AFP) - Croatia's Ivo Karlovic won his first ATP title in Houston on Sunday, defeating qualifier Mariano Zabaleta of Argentina 6-4, 6-1 in the final of the 416,000-dollar ATP US Clay Court Championship.

Karlovic's breakthrough title came in his third ATP finals appearance. The Croatian lost to Britain's Andy Murray in the San Jose final in February and dropped the 2005 Queen's final to American Andy Roddick.

By taking the 65,850-dollar top prize, Karlovic denied the South American's bid to become the first qualifier to win an ATP event since Spain's Nicolas Almagro won last year at Valencia.

Zabaleta, ranked 156th in the world, upset US second seed James Blake in the semi-finals and would have been the first qualifier to capture this event since Chile's Fernando Gonzalez in 2000.

A knee injury kept Zabaleta, a three-time ATP tournament winner, out most of last year and this season his ATP record entering the event was only 1-3.

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