Tim Mayotte had made the final round of the U.S. Pro Indoor tennis championship for two straight years.
But, because of an injury last year, Sunday's match at Philadelphia against John McEnroe was the first time Mayotte actually got to play for the title.
And he made the most of it with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 victory.
"It's a tremendous feeling," said Mayotte, who withdrew from last year's final against Ivan Lendl because of a pulled stomach muscle that eventually sidelined him six weeks. "I was so disappointed last year. I felt I was playing the best tennis of my career.
"It impeded a lot of the progress I felt I could have made. I had to sit out six weeks, train all over again and pick up the momentum I had lost."
By beating the fourth-seeded McEnroe for the first time in six career meetings, the fifth-seeded Mayotte won $67,500.
McEnroe, 27, earned $33,750 but didn't appear close to the form that preceded last year's 6 1/2-month self-exile from competition. He took leave to start a family and take stock of his life.
Mayotte, 26, said he thought McEnroe was making fine progress in his comeback.
"I feel he's a hair slower away from his best tennis," Mayotte said.
He added that McEnroe didn't hit the ball as hard as he once did, and that he missed volleys and hit net cords.
"They are things that make all the difference in the world," Mayotte said. "I was on his serve all day. I was able to move him out of position with my returns."
McEnroe gave all the credit to Mayotte.
"He played a fantastic match. It might be the best he's ever played.
"Even when I won the first set I wasn't dominating. And once he got going I couldn't hurt him with my serve.
"Sometimes it's difficult when you've beaten a guy so many times," said McEnroe, who was seeking to become the first player to win five U.S. Pro Indoor titles. "It means that much more to him and since he had to withdraw last year, this meant even more to him."
McEnroe said he was sluggish from the hard semifinal he played Saturday night. "I wasn't on top of things."
Mayotte felt he had a physical edge on McEnroe.
"He's going to have to make a commitment to conditioning off the court if he expects to regain his best form."
McEnroe took the first set with a service break in the sixth game.
From then on, however, it was all Mayotte, who raced to a 3-0 lead in the second set, a 3-1 advantage in the third and a 3-0 lead in the fourth.
Mayotte said he hopes the victory marks an auspicious beginning.
"It's nice to come in here and start the year in great style, and now I can look for a big year," he said.
Top-seeded Yannick Noah of France won $32,500 for his 6-4, 7-5 victory over second-seeded Joakim Nystrom in a $174,000 Grand Prix tournament at Lyon, France.
Noah, ranked No. 5 in the world, had not beaten Nystrom, ranked No. 7, since their first meeting in Stockholm in 1981. Nystrom had won three times in a row before Sunday.
"I tried to change tactics," Noah said. "The first three times we played, I tried to attack too much, although that's my game. Today I tried to be a bit more patient, play the forehand more than the backhand, and it worked."
At Richmond, Va., Luke Jensen of USC outlasted Steve DeVries of California, 6-1, 3-6, 6- 4, in 1 hour 36 minutes to win the men's singles title in the National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships, and then teamed with Rick Leach to win the doubles title over Charles Beckman and Royce Deppe of Texas, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Sonia Hahn of Kentucky came from behind in women's singles to edge Anne Grousbeck of Texas, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.