Third-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka overcame Xavier Malisse in three sets to start the new season by winning the $450,000 ATP Chennai Open title on Sunday.
The Swiss world number 21 survived a mid-match lapse in concentration to outclass the 60th-ranked Belgian 7-5 4-6 6-1 in two hours and 14 minutes at the Nungambakkam Tennis stadium.
Wawrinka’s third career title earned him $68,000 and 250 points as he made amends for the loss to Marin Cilic of Croatia in last year’s final in the southern Indian city.
It was a disappointing result for Malisse, who appeared to touch good form through the week but faltered at the last hurdle to remain without a title since February 2007.
Wawrinka, the number two Swiss player behind Roger Federer, served and volleyed superbly, taking advantage of his rival’s hesitant backhand play.
“Of course I am happy to start the year well and win after losing in the final last year,” the 25-year-old said.
“I had a good match against Berdych and again today. I have played better as the tournament went on and this will give me confidence for the Australian Open.”
The opening game lasted nine minutes as Wawrinka saved three break points before conceding the lead, but Malisse negated the advantage after being broken in the eighth game to make it 4-4.
Wawrinka, who stunned top seed and world number six Tomas Berdych in the semifinal on Saturday, broke the Belgian again in the 12th game to take the first set in an hour and three minutes.
Wawrinka served four aces in the second set, but still allowed Malisse to crawl back into the match with just one break in the third game.
The final turned Wawrinka’s way when he broke Malisse in the second game of the third set, and again in the sixth game, to run up a 5-1 lead, before serving out the match.
“This is the perfect start, but it is difficult to predict how I will play in Australia. Everyone plays well in a Grand Slam and I want to be ready for that,” he said.
“I am leaving for Australia tonight and will have a week of good practice before the Open starts.”
Malisse said he was disappointed to lose the final after playing well the whole week.
“The difference today was that he served better than me,” the pony-tailed Belgian said. “I think I have had a good tournament, but these things happen and I have to take it in my stride.”
Malisse said he was due to play in Auckland this week in preparation for the season’s first Grand Slam, which starts in Melbourne on January 17.
The seasoned Indian pair of Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes delighted home fans by winning the doubles title in their first tournament together on the circuit since 2002.
The top seeds were made to work hard by the first-time duo of Dutchman Robin Haase and David Martin of the United States before they won the final 6-2 6-7 (3/7) 10-7.
Paes and Bhupathi, who will also team up at the Australian Open, have won three Grand Slam titles together - the French Open in 1999 and 2001 and Wimbledon in 1999.