Croatia’s Marin Cilic on Sunday became the second player after Spain’s Carlos Moya to defend his title at the Chennai Open tennis tournament.

The second seed beat Stanislas Wawrinka 7-6(2), 7-6(3) in a tight final that lasted two hours and 40 minutes, in the bargain registering his first win in five meetings over the Swiss player.

Both players recorded a break each in either set. After making the first set his own, Cilic saw himself home on the second match-point in the tie break when Wawrinka’s backhand, until then his weapon of choice, flew wide on 3-6.

Fourth career title

This was Cilic’s fourth career title. And it came his way despite the abeyance of his usually booming serve; the World No. 14 served just two aces while third seed Wawrinka pumped in five, often clocking in excess of the 200 kmph mark.

For his effort, the Croat pocketed $68,450 and 250 ranking points, while Wawrinka won himself $35,980 along with 150 points.

Speaking later, Cilic said, “Winning the first set was crucial as it put Wawrinka under pressure in the second. I have played lengthier matches, but not in such conditions. Coming straight from sub-zero zone to this humidity was a tough ask.”

Asked if his two-in-a-row feat made him as much a favourite of the Chennai crowd as two-time winner Carlos Moya, Cilic said, “I don’t think so. Moya has been here several times, but I have a long career ahead of me so I may be able to match him.”

First break

Earlier, Wawrinka recorded the first break of the match and was serving for the set on 5-3 when Cilic broke him right back, winning the tie-break that followed 7-2.

Up a set, the Croat broke Wawrinka early in the second set, but double-faulted facing break point in the third game to return the favour. Cilic squandered a golden opportunity when he had two points on Wawrinka’s serve to go 5-3 up.

But the Swiss hung on to make it 4-4 and took it into a tie-break, where a spate of backhand errors cost him the match.

Barring its implosion in the second set tie-break, Wawrinka’s backhand looked in great shape. The Swiss also took a medical time out with a niggle in the neck after the seventh game, but did not appear to be bothered by the injury thereafter.

“It was a very close match. I felt something in my neck as I put a backhand into the net, but it was nothing major. Cilic deserved to win today,” said Wawrinka.

In doubles, the second-seeded Spanish pair of Marcel Granollers and Santiago Ventura beat Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei and Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia in straight sets.

Seven breaks of serve featured in the 76-minute match.

The results (finals):

Singles: Marin Cilic (Cro) bt Stanislas Wawrinka (Sui) 7-6(2), 7-6(3).

Doubles: Marcel Granollers (Esp) & Santiago Ventura (Esp) bt Yen-Hsun Lu (Tpe) & Janko Tipsarevic (Srb) 7-5, 6-2.

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