Kuala Lumur - Argentina's Juan Monaco won a three-hour battle with Frenchman Julien Benneteau to win the Malaysian Open and break back into the top 10 on Sunday.
Monaco, who had outlasted Japan's Kei Nishikori in a tight semi-final a day earlier, took a see-sawing match 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 for his fourth title of the year and will move from 11 to 10 in the new rankings on Monday.
The victory for the 28-year-old, who also spent three weeks ranked 10th over the European summer, maintains his bid for a place in November's season-ending ATP World Tour Finals, featuring the top eight players.
But Monaco's first hardcourt title, after six wins on clay, was tough on Benneteau, 30, who is still waiting for his maiden tour victory after seven finals, including one earlier this year.
"It was an excellent game and I will never forget the Malaysian Open as it has brought me my first hardcourt title," said Monaco.
"I saw Benneteau receiving treatment... but he still fought hard and never gave up. I had to come out more aggressively in the third set and it helped me to get my first hard court title."
Benneteau started the match with his right forearm heavily taped, but he got off to the perfect start as he broke the Argentine's first serve.
Monaco broke back in the fourth and ninth games but Benneteau refused to give up and tied the first set 5-5.
The 12th game was a thriller that lasted 20 minutes and saw 12 deuces before Monaco broke Benneteau's serve to take the first set 7-5.
Benneteau, who looked uncomfortable throughout the match, called the trainer for attention to his right leg. But he came out strongly in the second set, breaking Monaco twice to take it 6-4.
However, it was Monaco who had the extra burst of energy in the third as he broke the Frenchman's serve in the sixth game to clinch the set 6-3, and with it the title.
Monaco took home the trophy and $153 440 first prize, while Benneteau had to be content with the loser's cheque for $80,815.
"I was very focused on this game, because I wanted to win this final," said Benneteau, who was also a beaten finalist in Sydney in January.
"The fans were great, there was a lot of French in the crowd. It was a nice atmosphere and the game was a good level."
Monaco's fourth title of the year - after clay wins in Vina del Mar, Houston and Hamburg - gave him enough points to edge past American John Isner in the new ATP rankings which will be published on Monday.