GERMAN Philipp Kohlschreiber has repelled a tough challenge from Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori to claim the men's crown at the Canberra International in Bendigo.
Kohlschreiber had to survive a second consecutive three-setter to win the tournament, after he downed Russian Evgeny Donskoy in Saturday's semi-final.
The tournament's fourth seed caught an early break in Sunday's final at the Bendigo Tennis Centre, winning a tight first set 7-6.
Ruusuvuori, who was unseeded, rallied magnificently to claim the second set 6-4 and even the ledger.
But the world 79th ranked German showed plenty of composure and poise and steadied to nab the third set 6-3 and clinch the championship.
His ninth career title win was achieved in a time of one hour, 53 minutes and 29 seconds.
Their finals clash was the first time Kohlschreiber, who has been ranked as high as 16 in the world, and Ruusuvuori, ranked 121st, had met in a match.
The 36-year-old veteran was understandably rapt to get the new year underway with a tournament win.
"It's the best start I can imagine, even though it was a very tough tournament - very tricky conditions and of course I thought we both played a very good final," he said.
"Maybe the experience helped me out today a little bit, but I'm very happy.
"It was a very important win for me because my last season wasn't that great, I think I dropped to my worst ranking in a very long time.
"I had a couple of injuries - I had to work very hard in the off-season to get fit again, so (a win) is the best payout you can have."
Kohlschreiber, a definite starter for this month's Australian Open, praised his 20-year-old opponent and believed he had a bright future ahead.
"He is a very talented guy, he has high potential to become a really strong player, I wish him the best for his tennis," he said.
"He of course has to stay healthy, that's very important, but he's a very consistent worker and has a good coach, so I am pretty sure he'll make his way through.
"It's a great start (for Ruusuvuori) to have a couple of wins."
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