Roberto Bautista Agut admits he had to take his tennis to a new level to trump Juan Martin del Potro in Saturday's ASB Classic final.
The fifth-seeded Spaniard successfully held off a valiant del Potro fightback to secure a 6-1 4-6 7-5 win, and his second Classic crown in three years.
He had previously won the Auckland title in 2016, and defeated Kiwi Michael Venus, Steve Johnson, Jiri Vesely and Robin Haase on his way to the final.
Bautista Agut dominated Saturday's first set in every aspect, trumping his Argentine foe with an unerringly accurate ground-stroke game he couldn't repel.
Yet at 4-4 in the second set, something clicked for del Potro.
Where he had previously struggled to handle Bautista Agut's pace, the second seed began to take the ascendancy with big serves and bigger forehands.
He soon after secured the second set 6-4, breaking Bautista Agut at the death, before the two players went blow-for-blow in the deciding set.
Having failed to serve a single ace in the first set or hold serve, del Potro slammed nine aces in the following two sets and improved his first-serve rate.
But in the end, it was the world No.12 who blinked first.
Bautista Agut earned the championship-deciding break at 5-5 before overcoming del Potro's best efforts to serve out the match and lift the trophy.
He was chuffed by his achievement.
"Today I improved my level - I played much better tennis on this day, was very concentrated and played a good match," the 29-year-old Bautista Agut said.
"I played very aggressive, tried to increase the speed of the ball and to have Juan Martin moving around the court, and not repeating a lot.
"Well, I think today I had the match more under control than him - he was surviving with his serve (rather) than his strokes on the baseline."
Saturday's triumph also extends a three-year Auckland winning streak for Bautista Agut, who has not lost a Classic match since the second round of 2015.
He won in 2016 and withdrew ill from the 2017 event.
Both he and del Potro will now look ahead to the Australian Open.
"I'll have time enough to be ready, to get there, have some rest and try to practice a little bit, to get the body ready for a grand slam," Bautista Agut said.