Doha: Richard Gasquet's bid to climb up the top ten during 2013 made an excellent start when he reached the final of the first tournament of the new year, the Qatar Open.
The world No.10 from France also produced an encouraging performance in overcoming Daniel Brands, the German giant-killer, 7-5, 7-5, making tactical improvements and showing good mental strength on the bigger points.
Though a qualifier ranked outside the top 150 Brands had won six matches, despatched two seeds, and shown signs, with his unusual game that he might be making a career-changing surge into the ATP World Tour on a regular basis for the first time.
But Gasquet blunted the Brands weapons by sometimes playing a little further up the court than usual, denying time and reducing angles for his opponent.
Allied to solid serving and a high ratio of winners to losers (32-13), he had many reasons to celebrate with a leap and a yell.
"My backhand is my best shot, but I need not to miss it," Gasquet said, referring to the early stages when that had happened.
"But I became happy with the way I played and it's very nice to be in a final. I practised a lot because I knew I was coming to Doha and I wanted to do well here."
Gasquet had to survive uncomfortable moments early on against an opponent with a tremendous inside-out forehand drive which created difficult angles, and who liked to make ambushing rushes to the net, either behind a steep serve, or a sliced backhand.
The Frenchman was break point down in both his first and third service games, and with his uncharacteristically mistimed backhand drives, once produced a complete air shot.
He avoided dropping serve first with an ace, and then with a cleverly managed multi-patterned rally in which each player zig-zagged across most of the court.
Brands too made a good escape when he was 15-40 and then ad out in the sixth game.
However when the tall qualifier was obliged to serve to save the first set a second time he was broken for the first time, Gasquet concluding it with sweetly struck backhands in different directions which set up a forehand winner.
The second set saw Gasquet grow in strength and confidence, almost breaking through again at 30-40 on the Brands serve in the sixth game, and then taking advantage of the pressure on the underdog when he was forced to serve to save the match for a second time.
Gasquet delivered a trademark backhand pass to reach match point, and then a tight return of serve, eliciting a forehand drive from Brands into the net, to close the match out at the first attempt.
"Now I want to win the tournament," Gasquet concluded. he will play either David Ferrer, the top-seeded Spaniard, or Nikolay Davydenko, the unseeded former titleholder from Russia.