MOSCOW: US Open champion Marin Cilic continued his fine season by beating fifth seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista-Agut in straight sets to win the Kremlin Cup in Moscow on Sunday.
The 26-year-old Croat, a career-high eighth in the ATP rankings fired 10 aces in a 6-4, 6-4 victory, his first ever meeting with Bautista-Agut.
Cilic thus became the first Croat to win in the Russian capital since his coach Goran Ivanisevic took the Kremlin Cup title in 1996.
In reaching the final he also booked his spot in the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London.
Second-seeded Cilic broke his rival’s serve halfway through the opening set before serving it out in 46 minutes.
He started the second set with an immediate break.
Bautista-Agut, 16th in the world, who was playing his fourth career final, fought tooth and nail to try to break back but Cilic held his nerve to win his fourth ATP Tour crown this year and the 13th of his career.
At the award ceremony Cilic promised to come back next year to defend his title.
“It’s one of my career’s most important titles because after winning a Grand Slam event you lose a lot of energy and emotions and it was very important for me to bounce back,” Cilic said.
“I feel that a win here will be a serious push forward for my career and very important for my further progress.
“Today I still wasn’t able to serve really big bombs. I played more from the baseline and we had plenty of long and physical rallies. It was a really tough match, as I expected.”
Earlier on Sunday, sixth seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia claimed the WTA title at the event by beating Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu 6-4, 5-7, 6-1 in two hours 28 minutes.
The women’s final got off to a nervy start that produced seven breaks of serve in the opening set before the 30th-ranked Pavlyuchenkova managed to settle down.
The Russian pocketed the set in 50 minutes but it was Begu, playing in her fourth WTA Tour final, who dominated the second set to break serve twice and level the match.
In the deciding set Pavlyuchenkova again moved up a gear to break twice for a commanding 5-0 lead, taking her to the seventh title win of her career.
“It’s just the best possible way to finish the season,” Pavlyuchenkova said at the award ceremony.
“It was a really tough match. We were both fighting but somebody had to win. I just couldn’t have lost at home.”