Sydney - Serbian Viktor Troicki took a big
step on his comeback trail after a doping ban by ruthlessly dismantling fellow qualifier
Mikhail Kukushkin 6-2, 6-3 to win the Sydney International on Saturday.
The 28-year-old right-hander, who returned
to action last July after serving a one-year ban for missing a dope test, took
just over an hour to claim his second career ATP title.
A rampant Troicki won the last four games
of the first set and was 4-1 up in the second when Kukushkin took a medical
timeout to have treatment on his left thigh.
The Kazakh had made his way to the final
without losing a set, including in his quarterfinal victory over Juan Martin
Del Potro, but his mobility had been key to his progress.
The world number 66 rallied to win the next
two games for his only break of serve in the contest and offered hope of an
extended contest to the neutrals on Ken Rosewall Arena.
Troicki, however, was just too strong and,
roared on by vocal support from Sydney's ethnic Serb community, broke back
before serving out the match to love, sealing victory with his 13th ace.
"We both came through the qualifiers so
it was a tough week and we're heading to straight to Melbourne where we play on
Monday," Troicki said after receiving the trophy from Australian tennis
Troicki will take a big boost in confidence
into his first round tie at the Australian Open against Czech Jiri Vesely, who
also won an ATP title as a qualifier on Sunday at the Auckland Open.
Once ranked 12th in the world, Troicki's
victory in his second Sydney International final will send him back towards the
top 50 from his current ranking of 92.
He has made it clear this week that he believes
his doping ban was unfair and paid tribute to his Australian coach Jack Reader
and the rest of his team for sticking with him.
"They were with me throughout the
hardest time that is behind me," he said.
"They stood by me and I really
Kukushkin said his injury had been a
hangover from hip surgery he underwent three years ago and was not certain he
would be able to face Malek Jaziri at Melbourne Park on Monday.
"Tough to say," he told
reporters. "Of course I hope I will be able to recover. Of course when I
play eight days in a row it's tough.
"But I will have day off tomorrow and
fly to Melbourne. I will have a match already on Monday. I don't know.
Honestly, I don't know."