Viktor Troicki has outlasted Grigor Dimitrov in an epic 82-minute third set to become just the fourth player in the Open era to claim back-to-back Sydney International titles.
The world No.22 drew on all his fighting qualities, staving off a remarkable eight break points and another championship point in the deciding set to record a 1-6 6-2 7-6 (9-7) win in two hours and 16 minutes on Saturday night.
Twice the Serbian dug himself out of a 15-40 hole and also had to overcome the disappointment of failing to serve out the championship in the tenth game.
Not since American James Blake notched consecutive titles in 2006-07 has a player successfully defended the title.
Troicki also joins former world No.1s Lleyton Hewitt and Pete Sampras as rare back-to-back winners.
The third-seed barely got out of the changerooms when he was broken in the opening game.
An in-form Dimitrov plundered a stream of winners as a hesitant and flat-footed Troicki struggled to find any sort of rhythm, losing the first set in just 28 minutes.
But just as a repeat of Svetlana Kuznetsova’s 55-minute shutout loomed, the changeover produced a monumental flip in momentum.
Dimitrov, who just last week defeated Troicki in the second round at Brisbane, opened the door with three double faults in the opening game of the second set. From there the Bulgarian’s radar went haywire as his trademark forehand flayed all over the court.
It was an implosion of the worst kind, the world No.28 failing to hold serve through the entire set. Not even a triple change of racquet could halt the slide.
Both players tightened their games in the third, trading big hold for big hold but it was Troicki’s impressive defence that finally earned him his first victory over Dimitrov in three attempts and a third career title.