Kuala Lumpur - Japan's new tennis star Kei Nishikori clinched the Malaysian Open on Sunday after taming France's Julien Benneteau in two tightly fought sets.
The top seed, the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final at the US Open this month, beat the fourth seeded Benneteau 7-6 (7/4), 6-4. He is now the first Asian to win the Malaysia tournament.
The showdown at a packed Putra Stadium in Kuala Lumpur got off to a cracking start.
Benneteau took an early hold of the tie to lead 3-1, but Nishikori showed resilience, powering back to draw level before going on to clinch the first set 7-6 (7/4), which included two sublime back-hand volley winners at full stretch.
In the second set, the world eighth ranked player again trailed world number 28 Benneteau 2-3, but smashed some cross-court winners to move to 5-4 up.
The 24-year-old Japanese sealed victory with a power serve, which Benneteau returned to the net.
The pupil of American tennis star-turned-coach Michael Chang said he did not have it easy against Benneteau, who finished as runner-up for the third consecutive year.
Benneteau has also now reached 10 ATP tour finals without winning one.
"It was really tough. (Benneteau) was aggressive, but I was waiting for my opportunity, and when he got tired in the last game I took my chances and am happy it paid off," Nishikori said.
"It wasn't my best tennis, but I'm really happy to come away with the win in this tough game."
Nishikori said he was looking ahead to playing in Japan, after the strong support in Malaysia.
"It's really an honour to have won this tournament. It's not even in my country and so many people showed up," he said.
"I want to do well in my next tournament in Japan after this."
He next plays in the Japan Open which starts in Tokyo on Monday.
In the doubles, fourth seed Marcin Matkowski of Poland and Leander Paes of India beat second seeds Britain's Jamie Murray and Australia's John Peers 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 10-5.