Stanislas Wawrinka won the 2016 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship on Saturday after defeating Marcos Baghdatis in straight sets 6-4, 7-6(13), extending his unbeaten streak over the Cypriot to six matches.
The Swiss prevailed after a 24-minute tiebreak in the second set, during which Baghdatis showcased some brilliant courage but ultimately came up just short.
Wawrinka followed compatriot Roger Federer into the Dubai history books and became just the second Swiss to win the tournament.
Saturday's win also meant the 30-year-old clinched his second ATP Tour title of 2016 after sealing his third consecutive Chennai Open crown in January.
The match was rightly celebrated as an entertaining encounter between two deserving finalists, leaving tennis writer Chris Goldsmith in awe:
Chris Goldsmith @TheTennisTalker
GSM and ATP Dubai title to Stan Wawrinka 6-4 7-6 (15-13) over Marcos Baghdatis! What a match........2/27/2016, 5:09:11 PM
Baghdatis has enjoyed his time getting back into the tennis spotlight after several years outside the sport's elite, and it showed as he put up a strong test for Wawrinka from the beginning on Saturday.
Sports reporter Reem Abulleil helped put into perspective the contrasting tennis success of these two players in recent years:
Reem Abulleil @ReemAbulleil
Wawrinka hasnt lost a final in 3 years. Baghdatis hasnt won one in 6. #DDFTennis2/27/2016, 2:03:14 PM
One might not have thought the man from Cyprus was that far off in quality, though, and it was Baghdatis who clinched the first break of the afternoon to lead 3-2 early in the opening set.
Wawrinka's serving up to that point had been pristine, but a series of errors proved costly. The Swiss immediately levelled the scores, however, as Baghdatis was unable to follow up on his advantage.
And it was the service game that would eventually come to separate the two in the first set, with Wawrinka boasting a first-serve percentage of 71 compared to Baghdatis' far less impressive 42 per cent, per the official ATP World Tour website.
It also didn't help Baghdatis' case that he contributed six double faults in the opening set, and Wawrinka pounced to claim his second break in the 10th game and take a 1-0 lead. Erik Gudris of Tennis Now detailed the defining point:
Erik Gudris @ATNtennis
Strong start for Baghdatis in first set. But he tosses in three DFs serving down 4-5. Wawrinka breaks to take it 6-4. #Dubai2/27/2016, 3:59:05 PM
Baghdatis opened the second set as he would have hoped to continue, and Wawrinka could only applaud as his opponent stretched to land a cross-court forehand past the Swiss and claim an early lead.
Tennis TV provided footage of the effort commentators dubbed the "shot of the fortnight":
Tennis TV @TennisTV
Check this out! Point of the tournament in Dubai from #Wawrinka and #Baghdatis. Great hand skills on the run from MB https://t.co/MUF8N9E75I2/27/2016, 4:03:02 PM
The pair continued to exhibit a great deal of camaraderie, best summed up by the high-five the two shared after Wawrinka accidentally smashed a shot into his opponent, who was instantly forgiving:
Reem Abulleil @ReemAbulleil
Gotta love how classy tennis is at times. Wawrinka accidentally slams an overhead into Baghdatis. Apologizes, they high-5 on way 2 th bench2/27/2016, 4:07:54 PM
Breaks in serve were far more difficult to come by in the second set, and Aviation Club Tennis Centre bore witness to a wonderfully close exchange between the two, both refusing to surrender at the final hurdle.
The tug-of-war endured and only eight returning points were recorded throughout the opening 10 games of the set as Wawrinka edged into a 6-5 lead before producing the first deuce of the set in the 12th game.
Baghdatis entered the defining game having dropped just three service points throughout the entire set, and he maintained that pattern by pushing his foe to a tiebreak, per tennis writer Katie Bee:
Katie Bee @breakpointsaved
Second-set tiebreak. Stan trying to take the title right here; Baghdatis trying to force a decider. Anything could happen.2/27/2016, 4:43:40 PM
The pair exchanged the tiebreak lead back and forth, but it was eventually Wawrinka who topped the decider 15-13 to join Federer in sealing Dubai glory.
While the straight-sets result may be just, the surging Baghdatis put up a tremendous fight on Saturday and can hope for more finals to come in the near future if he can replicate the standards shown this past week.
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