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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."