Kuala Lumpur: Japan`s rising tennis star Kei Nishikori clinched his first Malaysian Open title on Sunday after taming France`s Julien Benneteau in two tightly fought sets.
The top seed trounced the fourth seed 7-6 (7/4), 6-4, becoming the first Asian to win the ATP Word Tour 250 series tournament.
Nishikori already made waves when he advanced to the recent US Open final, making him the first Asian man to make a Grand Slam singles final.
Sunday`s much-awaited showdown at a packed Putra Stadium in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur got off to a cracking start as both players traded 17 strokes in the first rally, which proved to be a first of many long exchanges.
Benneteau took an early hold of the tie to lead 3-1, but Nishikori displayed gritty resilience, powering back to draw level before going on to clinch the first set 7-6 (7/4), which included two subliminal back-hand volley winners at full stretch.
The world eighth ranked player again trailed world number 28 Benneteau 2-3 in the second game but levelled before breaking the Frenchman in the fourth to take the lead.
Nishikori, who had likened Malaysia to playing back home, was roused by the crowd to then smash some cross-court winners to stand at 5-4.
The 24-year-old sealed victory with a power serve, which Benneteau returned to the net.
In the doubles, fourth seed Marcin Matkowski of Poland and Leander Paes of India beat second seed Britain`s Jamie Murray and Australia`s John Peers 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 10-5.