World number one Daniil Medvedev won his first ATP title of 2022 on Saturday, roaring past defending champion Cameron Norrie 7-5, 6-0 in the final of the hardcourt tournament in Los Cabos, Mexico.
Medvedev snapped a five-match losing streak in finals -- a stretch that included his agonizing, five-set loss to Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final in February.
He also came up short this year in 's-Hertogenbosch and Halle. He didn't get a chance at Wimbledon, where Russian and Belarussian players were banned because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
His first trophy since he won the US Open last year -- denying Novak Djokovic a calendar Grand Slam -- comes just as Medvedev launches the final build up to his title defense in the final Grand Slam of 2022.
Next he'll defend his Canadian Open title before tackling the Cincinnati Masters.
Defending Los Cabos champion Norrie did what he could in the opening set, but Medvedev gained a decisive break to lead 6-5 and once he'd served out the opening set there was simply no stopping him.
"It was not easy," Medvedev said in his on-court interview.
"Cam is an amazing player, so it was really intense,"” he added. "When you play against him, you know that you have to fight for every point."
Medvedev had two set points on his serve at 5-4, but was broken.
In the next game he scraped his hand on the court reaching for a shot on the opening point and needed treatment because of the blood.
"I didn’t play bad in that game at 5-4," Medvedev said. "So I knew I just had to stay there. Actually bleeding helped me I think a little bit so I could hold my nerve a little bit more."
Medvedev was playing his first tournament since a quarter-final exit at Mallorca in June.
With each match he looked more assured, and he ended the week without dropping a set against a modest array of opponents starting with 224th-ranked Australian Rinky Hijikata followed by 98th-ranked Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis and 38th-ranked Serb Miomir Kecmanovic.
- High-level match -
Norrie was a tougher proposition. Ranked 12th, he has taken his tally of ATP titles to four since winning his first at Los Cabos last year.
He had reached his 10th final since the start of 2021 by beating second-seeded Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in the semi-finals.
Once Medvedev found his groove, however, Norrie had no answer.
"Every match was very good, but the final is always special," Medvedev said. "In the final, you play the best player of this week, so it's always a high-level match and I'm really happy that I managed to show some good level, some good shots in such an important match."
Medvedev stamped himself the early US Open favorite, especially given the likely absence of Djokovic because of his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and the uncertainty surrounding injured Nadal.
The Spaniard, ranked third in the world, pulled out of the Montreal Masters this week as he recovers from an abdominal tear suffered at Wimbledon.