Getty Images

Dimitrov defeats Nishikori for first title since 2014

Leave a comment

BRISBANE, Australia — Grigor Dimitrov ended a long wait between ATP titles, beating third-seeded Kei Nishikori 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 on Sunday night to win the Brisbane International final and claim his first tournament victory since 2014.

Dimitrov, dubbed `Baby Fed’ earlier in his career for his style similarities with Roger Federer, lost the Brisbane International final to Andy Murray in 2013. He won three titles in 2014, and reached the Wimbledon semifinals as he rose to a career-high ranking of No. 8.

But his form faded and he slipped down the rankings to No. 40 in the middle of last year before starting a career resurgence and entering the season-opening Brisbane event ranked No. 17 and seeded seventh.

“It’s been pretty emotional,” Dimitrov said. “This trophy means a lot.”

He beat defending champion Milos Raonic in the semifinals. Against Nishikori, who reached his first Brisbane final after losing three previous semifinals, he fended off two breakpoints in the first game and another in the third to hold, absorbing all the early pressure before going on the attack and racing through the set.

The second set was almost a reverse of the first, with Dimitrov missing a breakpoint chance early before Nishikori rallied to win it in 33 minutes and level at 1-set apiece.

Nishikori had a medical timeout for what appeared to be a left hip problem and got treatment in the locker room after the second set.

He lost momentum in the third, as Dimitrov upped his level again. The 25-year-old Bulgarian didn’t drop a point in his first two service games in the third and maintained the pressure on Nishikori’s serve, eventually forcing a break in the eighth game for a 5-3 lead. He held at love to close out for his fifth career title when Nishikori hit a forehand long.

Nishikori, the 2014 U.S. Open finalist, predicted he’d be back again.

“First time to be in the finals, so I was very happy this week,” Nishikori said. “I hope I can come back next year – someday I want to win this title.”

Larsson beats Riske to win Nuremberg Cup

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NUREMBERG, Germany — Swedish player Johanna Larsson won her first WTA singles title in three years by beating Alison Riske of the United States 7-6 (4), 6-4 in the final of the Nuremberg Cup on Saturday.

Her only other career singles victory was on home soil at Bastad in 2015.

Having come from a set down to win matches in the quarterfinals and semifinals, Larsson rallied from a break down in the first set and won the last four points of the tiebreaker. Larsson then won the final five games to take the match and deny Riske a second career singles title.

“When I held for 4-2, I could see some signs that she was a little bit tired,” Larsson said, “and that gave me a lot of energy to fight back.”

Pavlyuchenkova labors past Cibulkova to win at Strasbourg

Getty Images
Leave a comment

STRASBOURG, France — Third-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia won the Strasbourg International after laboring to a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3), 7-6 (6) win against Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia on Saturday.

They spent 3 hours, 35 minutes on court in a grueling contest, which ended when Pavlyuchenkova sealed victory on her second serve.

Pavlyuchenkova won her first title of the year and 12th overall, beating Cibulkova for the fourth time in their 11 career meetings.

Fifth-seeded Cibulkova was bidding for her ninth career title.

Both players head to the French Open in Paris, where first-round play starts Sunday.

Cibulkova reached the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2009, while Pavlyuchenkova reached her only quarterfinal there in 2013.