Kei Nishikori has finally snapped a title drought that stretched 52 tournaments, nine finals defeats and nearly three years.
The Japanese world No.9 got the monkey off his back in a 6-4 3-6 6-2 defeat of impressive 22-year-old Daniil Medvedev in Sunday night’s Brisbane International final.
Second-seeded Nishikori peeled off four straight games to erase a 3-0 deficit to win the first set and ensured missed opportunities in the second set didn’t haunt him as he sprinted clear in the decider.
Nishikori last won a title in February 2016, with a loss in Tokyo to Medvedev last year and another final loss in Brisbane two years ago particularly frustrating for the favourite.
He missed last year’s Australian swing with a wrist injury and was beaming when he lifted the trophy on Pat Rafter Arena.
“I’m really happy that finally I’ve won this title, it’s been like seven or eight times at this tournament,” he said.
“Great final today, I lost to him (Medvedev) last year in the final in Japan, so I’m happy to get revenge today.”
The world No.16 started well in pursuit of a repeat of his Tokyo triumph, going ahead 3-0 as both men mixed four winners with 14 unforced errors in a nervy start.
Nishikori then wrangled a hold after trailing 15-40, at which point things just seemed to click.
He broke back and then moved to 3-all with a rifled forehand winner.
He did the same to break again and go ahead for the first time before closing out the set.
Nishikori had the better of the second set but couldn’t take advantage of eight break points.
Instead the Russian took his chance in the eighth game, smoking a backhand down the line to make Nishikori wait one more set to break his drought.
A quick toilet break helped Nishikori reset as he built a double break, with the insurance coming in handy when broken serving for the title at 5-1.
A break to love in the next game meant it mattered little, with Nishikori raising his arms in relief after his barren finals run.
“Amazing match, amazing week, if he plays like this he’s going to have a lot of success this season,” Medvedev said of his conqueror.