Five years ago, Radu Albot etched his name in the history books when he won the Delray Beach Open. The first Moldovan ATP Tour singles titlist, Albot keeps the memory of the special moment close to his heart.
When he arrived last week ahead of qualifying for the ATP 250 event, he enjoyed taking in the empty Stadium Court.
“When I got here on the first day right from the plane, I got to hit on the centre court. The first thing I did, I just stepped on the court and took 10, 20 seconds and just looked around and soaked in those memories,” Albot told ATPTour.com. “I tried to remember the atmosphere that was on the court, the good feelings, just everything.
“Nowadays we're just running, hustling for something and you don't have the time to take these feelings. I have good feelings on that court, so it was a little bit of a sentimental moment, I have to say.”
The Delray Beach Tennis Centre has proven a happy hunting ground for Albot, who made the semi-finals at the tournament again last year. He has made a good start to his 2024 run in Florida by qualifying for the main draw.
The thought of what he accomplished five years ago inspires Albot, who during his title run won four consecutive three-setters to claim the crown.
“This was the best week of my career. It's the only title I got in singles. What sticks out is that I had five matches that I won.” Albot said. “It's not so easy to win a match, [forget] talking about a tournament, five in a row. And also to do it here in an ATP and in such a nice place, it's also important. It became one of my favourite places.”
Albot will never forget what he accomplished in the state of Florida in 2019. Not only did he win an ATP Tour title — the Moldovan claimed a set against Roger Federer in Miami a month after his Delray Beach triumph.
“When I came back home [to Moldova] of course, there was still hype. It was something crazy because it's the first time somebody from my country won an ATP title in singles,” Albot said. “The federation organised a nice meet at the airport with kids, with banners, with pictures. It was also a coincidence that I played Roger in Miami, and I got the first set against him, so a lot of people were talking about that."
Albot is still playing well aged 34. The No. 137 player in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings is eager to improve his standing and can start with another memorable tournament in Delray Beach as he continues carrying the flag for Moldova on the ATP Tour.
“I've been living in Moldova. I grew up in Moldova. I just came from Davis Cup representing Moldova last week,” Albot said. “I can say that I'm a patriotic guy. I have Moldova t-shirts with me, I have Moldova wine with me whenever I travel. I also have the flag with me, my Moldovan flag. This makes me a little bit proud, I have to say.
“I like to represent my country. I know that I'm the best tennis player that my country has ever had and I'm happy to be there and to promote this sport, to promote this country. Not everybody knows what country that is and I'm a little bit like an ambassador in tennis for my country, so I am just proud of that.”