Chennai - Top seed Stanislas Wawrinka beat Croatian youngster Borna Coric on Sunday to capture the ATP Chennai Open for a third straight year, kicking off the new season in winning style.
The Swiss world number four overcame Coric in the $480,000 season-opening event with a 6-3, 7-5 win in the nearly 90-minute final, claiming his fourth victory since 2011 in the southern Indian city.
Scores of Indian fans at the Nungambakkam tennis stadium cheered wildly as the popular Wawrinka, making his eighth appearance in Chennai, outplayed his 19-year-old opponent -- the youngest finalist on the ATP Tour in eight years.
"I was expecting (a) really tough match. He's young, he's really good," said the two-time Grand Slam winner.
"Today again for me was a really tough one, I had to play my best game. I would like to congratulate Borna for his first final, first tournament of the year," he said.
The defending champion pocketed $75,700 and 250 ranking points for his efforts. But his biggest gain was a timely tune-up for the Australian Open, which starts in Melbourne on January 18.
"It's a really important tournament for me to start here. I love to come back here. It's the perfect condition to start in," the 30-year-old Swiss said.
"Tonight with the trophy, it's a really great feeling... I'm going to enjoy this trophy first and see what's going to happen in the Australian Open."
Two years ago Wawrinka had followed his triumph at the Chennai Open by beating Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final three weeks later, his first Grand Slam title.
And in 2015, after winning in Chennai, Wawrinka defeated Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros to win the French Open in June.
Eighth-seeded Coric, who earned $39,870 and 150 points, had hoped to become this year's Chennai Open champion in his first appearance at the tournament but said his opponent's "serve, backhand, forehand" got the best of him.
"I knew it was going to be a very tough match... But it was a very nice tournament and I have enjoyed being here," said Coric, who is the youngest player in the world top 50.
"I want to say thanks to the crowd, they are unbelievable. I was running because of you guys," he said.
The world number 44 player reached the final after beating Britain's Aljaz Bedene in a nearly three-hour semi-final match on Saturday.