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Baghdatis beats Gasquet to claim Sydney crown

Back in-form Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis capitalised on a shaky tiebreaker from Frenchman Richard Gasquet to claim the Sydney International ATP title.

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AFP - Former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis capitalised on a shaky tiebreaker from Frenchman Richard Gasquet to claim the Sydney International ATP title here on Saturday.

The 42nd-ranked Cypriot won a rain-interrupted final 6-4, 7-6 (7/2) in one hour 43 minutes to capture his fourth career title just days out from the Australian Open in Melbourne.

After recovering from the brink against Lleyton Hewitt and Mardy Fish just to reach the final, Baghdatis completed an ideal Australian Open build-up.

"I've just won a tournament, my confidence is up, I'm feeling pretty fit, I've played two three-set matches, playing good, moving good, feeling fit," Baghdatis said. "So everything is positive going into the Open.

"Obviously my confidence is good, but I need to win some tournaments and some matches in the Australian Open to build up again.

"But if I stay focused and find the way to win the first two, three matches, then I could be very dangerous and confident."

Baghdatis, who lost the 2006 Australian Open final to Roger Federer, broke Gasquet's opening service game and went on to take the first set in 45 minutes before rain suspended play during the first game of the second set.

After a 75-minute delay, Gasquet broke Baghdatis' serve for the only time in the fourth game, when the Cypriot double-faulted on break point and led 5-3.

But he had a shaky service game in the ninth when he went down three break points and Baghdatis broke back and levelled and took the set to a tiebreaker.

Gasquet got the first mini-break in the tiebreaker to lead 2-0 but Baghdatis reeled off the next seven points to take the set and the championship.

Gasquet served two double-faults and made two forehand errors to virtually hand the set and the match to Baghdatis.

It was the first meeting at senior level between the two players, although they played each other as juniors.

Baghdatis is fighting his way back up the rankings after climbing from 100 at the end of 2008 to No. 42 last season, highlighted by his third career ATP World Tour title in Stockholm last October.

Gasquet, currently ranked 53, was bidding to become the first Frenchman since Guy Forget in 1991 to win the Sydney title.

Although he thrilled the crowd with his signature one-handed backhand, he succumbed to ill-opportune errors at crucial times during the second set to lose the initiative.

"The first set he played better than me from the baseline," Gasquet said.

"In the second set I was leading 5-3 and I served a bad game and I had big trouble in the tiebreak. I lost a lot of free points, so that made the difference."

Former world top ten player Gasquet returned a positive test for cocaine last March following a kiss in a Miami nightclub and served a two-and-a-half month ban.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport last month cleared Gasquet, who reached a career-high ranking of seven in 2007, of doping and dismissed appeals by sports authorities for a tougher penalty.

Gasquet has won six of his last eight matches.
 

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