World No. 17 Janko Tipsarevic captured his first ATP World Tour title at the fifth attempt when he beat Marcos Baghdatis 6-4, 7-5 on Sunday in the Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur 2011 final.
The Serbian was the only player in the Top 20 not to have won an ATP World Tour title, with four runner-up efforts behind him at the 2009 Kremlin Cup in Moscow (l. to Youzhny), the 2010 UNICEF Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (l. to Stakhovsky), and this year at the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships (l. to del Potro) and the AEGON International in Eastbourne (l. to Seppi).
He becomes the 10th first-time winner on the ATP World Tour this season and earns 250 South African Airways 2011 ATP Ranking points plus $155,000 in prize money.
At the age of 27 Tipsarevic has enjoyed his best season on the ATP World Tour, compiling a 44-20 match record and hitting a career-high World No. 13 in the South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings after reaching his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the US Open (l. to Djokovic) last month.
The third seed suffered a slow start to the final as he fell behind 0-3, but he struck back in the fifth game before breaking again in the seventh game to clinch the first set. He raced to a 4-1 double break lead in the second set, but was pegged back by the resilient Baghdatis, who leveled at 5-5 after Tipsarevic failed to serve out the match in the 10th game.
Tipsarevic quickly regained his composure, though, and broke Baghdatis again in the 11th game before sealing victory on his third match point after two hours and six minutes.
Former World No. 8 Baghdatis was bidding to win his first ATP World Tour title of a difficult season, which has seen him tumble from the Top 20 to No. 60 in the South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings. The Cypriot, who had not lost a set en route to the final, dropped to a 4-7 mark in tour-level finals, but will return to the World’s Top 50 at around No. 46 on Monday.
“It wasn't my day today,” conceded Baghdatis. “Janko played great. He deserved to win, he was more aggressive. You just have to say ‘well done’ to Janko for a great week and a great year overall.”
“I played some great tennis this week and I hope I can keep it up for the rest of the season,” added the 26 year old, who faces Bangkok champion Andy Murray in the first round of the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships next week.
Marcos’ impressive run at the Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur 2011 came to an end in the final on Sunday when he was defeated by third seed Janko Tipsarevic, 6-4, 7-5.
Marcos made a strong start to the match as he broke for a 3-0 lead. However, Tipsarevic hit back in the fifth game and then broke Marcos again in the seventh game as he clinched the first set.
Marcos called on all his fighting qualities to battle back from a 1-4 double break deficit in the second set, and leveled at 5-5 after Tipsarevic failed to serve out the match in the 10th game. However, he could not maintain the momentum and surrendered his serve again in the following game. At the second time of asking Tipsarevic finished the job, clinching victory on his third match point after two hours and six minutes.
"I played pretty well today," assessed Marcos. "Janko was better than me today on the important points of the match. I am a bit disappointed, but glad to feel good on court again and playing the tennis I am playing at the moment. I will keep it up."
It brought to a close a strong week for Marcos, who had ousted fourth seed Jurgen Melzer and second seed Viktor Troicki both in straight sets to reach his first ATP World Tour final of the season.
He will now look to carry his good form into next week’s Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo, where he faces World No. 4 and this week’s Bangkok champion Andy Murray in the first round.