Kevin Anderson enters second consecutive Maharashtra Open final after beating defending champion Gilles Simon in straight sets…
What’s better than avenging your loss in a rematch?
Top seed Kevin Anderson lived up to his billing as he defeated third seed and defending champion, Gilles Simon 6-3, 7-6(3) to book his place in the final of the Tata Open Maharashtra on Friday for a second successive year.
Anderson set the tone for his serving game in the very first game of the match. He—who eventually finished with a tally of 21— rifled in three aces to seal the first game with ease. Simon came back at him and levelled the scores immediately at 1-1 with his big service game.
The 34-year-old Frenchman had an early chance to break Anderson in the third game, but he failed to capitalize on opportunity with some poor returns that were rammed into the net. Both the players went on to hold their serves till the eight game.
Anderson—who hasn’t dropped a single set in the tournament yet—looked a little off-colour in the beginning. Unlike his previous games, he was slow off the mark and moving around the court as fluently. His tally of unforced errors was higher than Simon’s. On the other hand—compared to his quarterfinal defeat of compatriot Benoit Paire—Simon looked a lot more comfortable with his footwork from the start. He moved with ease at the baseline, maneuvered the ball meticulously and returned almost everything thrown at him by Anderson.
Stuck level at 4-4, the decisive moment of the first set arrived in the ninth game when Anderson negotiated Simon’s big serve game to bag the first break point of the match. Serving for the match, Anderson put in another convincing service game to win the first set 6-3 in 38 minutes.
Both the players got off to a horrendous start in the second set. There were plenty of mishits and unforced errors from the two ends and were finding it difficult to keep the ball in play. This was evident in the second game as Anderson had to save four break points to make it 1-1.
Anderson, however, was quick to grab his rhythm back.
He sealed game four three aces and then broke Simon’s serve again in the subsequent game to take the lead for the first time in this set at 3-2. He extended the lead to two games with a near perfect game in the next. It had everything—an ace, a volley, a smash and a sublime backhand return.
Simon retained the lead after breaking Anderson’s serve in the eight—who had save two break points in the same game— and left Anderson scrambling with his big serves in the ninth. Anderson responded with four aces in game 10 to level the scores 5-5.
Reeling at 0-30 at 5-6, Anderson was hanging by the edge as he was about to concede a set for the first time in the tournament. However, he bailed himself out with an ace and a few unforced errors by his opponent to force the set into a tie-breaker.
Once again, it was the unforced errors that hurt Simon the most. He conceded 4 points in the tie-breaker and Anderson rubbed salt to his wounds with three more aces to seal the tie-breaker and with it, the match.
He will now face the oldest player of the draw, Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in the final. The 39-year-old —earlier yesterday— fought hard to defeat Belgium’s Steve Darcis 7-6(3),6-4, 6-3 in the first semi-final of the day.
Interestingly enough, he also became the oldest ATP Tour finalist since Ken Rosewall in 1977.
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