BRISBANE: Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov won his first title in over two years when he upset world number five Kei Nishikori in three sets to win the Brisbane International on Sunday.
In an enthralling final between two evenly matched opponents, Dimitrov claimed the Roy Emerson Trophy 6-2, 2-6, 6-3, his fourth singles title on the ATP Tour.
Dimitrov, 25, was ranked as high as eighth in the world in 2014 and was nicknamed “Baby Fed” because of his similar playing style to Swiss great Roger Federer.
Injury problems and poor form saw him slump during 2015 and the first half of 2016 when he plummeted to 40th in the world, but he recovered towards the end of last year and entered the season-opening tournament ranked 17.
However, the 27-year-old Nishikori went into the final as a firm favourite to win his first Brisbane title in six attempts.
The Japanese star started well and had Dimitrov struggling to hold his opening service game, but from then on the Bulgarian dominated the first set, breaking Nishikori twice to take the opener in 36 minutes.
Dimitrov took that momentum into the second set and was comfortable on serve, but at 2-2 he faltered and was broken, with Nishikori seizing the initiative and winning four games in succession to level the match.
Dimitrov had another chance to break at the start of the third set but Nishikori held on and both men were untroubled on serve until at 3-4, the Japanese player stumbled and gave Dimitrov a vital break.
The Bulgarian stepped up and showed no nerves as he served out the match, claiming victory in one hour, 48 minutes when Nishikori sent a backhand long.