Melbourne:Marcos Baghdatis warmed up for the first Grand Slam of the year with a 6-4, 7-6 (2) win over Frenchman Richard Gasquet in Saturday's Sydney International final.
Baghdatis, runner-up to Roger Federer at the 2006 Australian Open, won the first set before the players had a 75-minute wait in the dressing room during a rainstorm at Sydney Olympic Park.
Baghdatis fell behind 5-2 in the second set before breaking back twice and leveling at 5-5, then prevailing in the tiebreaker. It was Baghdatis' fourth career ATP singles title.
Baghdatis, who has won 16 of his last 17 matches including a challenger event in Tashkent and the title at Stockholm, is unseeded at the Australian Open as he continues his comeback from wrist and back injuries last year.
The Cypriot player was also unseeded in 2006 when he beat Andy Roddick and David Nalbandian before losing to Federer in the Australian Open final. A former world junior champion, Baghdatis also won the Australian Open junior title in 2003.
He said he got an extra lift from winning a title ahead of the season's first major.
"Just won a tournament; your confidence is up; feeling pretty fit; playing good; moving good; feeling fit," he said. "So I think everything is positive."
Baghdatis was buoyed by a large pro-Cyprus crowd, including many of his relatives who live in the Sydney area.
"I want to thank my uncles, cousins, everyone, and it's my brother's birthday," Baghdatis said at the trophy presentations.
Baghdatis will play his first-round match at the Australian Open on Tuesday against Italian Paolo Lorenzi, before a possible third-round clash with Lleyton Hewitt and a potential quarterfinal with Federer.
Gasquet was playing only his second tournament since a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport took the uncertainty out of his immediate career.
He endured months of turmoil dating to when a doping test last March showed traces of cocaine.
The CAS last month rejected an appeal from the World Anti-Doping Agency and International Tennis Federation against an earlier decision to clear Gasquet of the doping violation.
A panel of three lawyers from the Lausanne-based CAS accepted Gasquet's claim that he inadvertently consumed cocaine by kissing a woman in a Miami club hours after withdrawing from a tournament with an injury.
The judges decided that the quantity of the drug in Gasquet's urine test was "minute" and that he was "clearly not a regular cocaine user."
Gasquet missed the French Open and Wimbledon while suspended, and in his first main-draw match after returning lost in straight sets to top-seeded Rafael Nadal at the US Open.
He played in Brisbane last week, and in Sydney was disappointed not to win a title.
"But I did final," he said. "I lost to Marcos, a great player. For sure I feel confident for Australian Open, even if I have tough draw.
"But I'm ... disappointed, because it's always difficult to lose a final."