Sydney: France's Gilles Simon showed the class that once made him a world number six to beat Serbian Viktor Troicki 7-5 7-6 in an enthralling final of the Sydney International on Saturday.
The 26-year-old Simon looked backed to his hustling best after a knee injury as he recovered from two breaks down at the start of the second set to claim his eighth tour title, 7-4 in a tiebreak, after two gripping 58-minute sets.
"It's always good to win the tournament," Simon said. "You never know if you're going to win more after, so I enjoy it every time."
Fourth seed Troicki made mistakes at key moments and ended up a ball of frustration, sarcastically applauding a line judge after being called for foot fault in the tiebreak.
Simon's speed around court has always been one of his main strengths and being robbed of it by the knee injury prompted his slide to 44th in the world rankings at the end of last year.
"I just have the feeling that I'm playing good, and I have the feeling that I was not playing better two years ago," he said.
Troicki, who has been charged with confidence after clinching Serbia's first Davis Cup triumph against France, claimed an early break in the first set but Simon was soon back in the match with one of his own.
While Simon prowled the back of the court, unleashing winners from all angles, his Serbian opponent mixed some fine aggressive shots with a rash of forehand errors.
Troicki saved four set-points to level at 5-5 but succumbed to the sixth with another error in the next game, swiping his racket towards the ground in frustration.
"When you're losing, I mean, you get frustrated," he said. "I was a bit nervous in some moments, and I had to get it all out."
A topsy-turvy second set saw Troicki take a 3-0 lead before Simon swept back to put the contest back on serve, only for Troicki to break back again and give himself a chance to serve for the set at 6-5.
Simon had the Serbian running around the court on a second break point and Troicki found the net rushing in trying to cut a volley across court.
The highlight of the tiebreak was a sublime backhand topspin lob that gave Simon a 2-1 lead, the lowlight when Troicki applauded the line judge and then tried to shake hands after the foot fault call.
"In the finals in the tiebreak of the second set, at 4-2, to call a foot fault, I mean, I haven't seen it so much in my life ... it's a pretty rough call," said Troicki, who has now lost all five of his matches against Simon.
A quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park two years ago, Simon will meet Roger Federer if they both get through the opening round at the Australian Open, where the Frenchman meets Taiwan's Lu Yen-Hsun.