Kevin Anderson lifted his sixth ATP Tour title by beating Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic 7-6(4), 6(2)-7, 7-6(5) in a giant battle of serves that lasted for over two and a half hours.
Top seed Kevin Anderson defeated Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic in the tallest ATP final in the Open Era to lift the Tata Open Maharashtra trophy in Pune on Saturday.
South Africa’s Anderson negated thundering serves from the 39-year-old Croat—including 36 aces— in an excruciating in a three-set final to take his sixth ATP Title 7-6(4), 6(2)-7, 7-6(5).
Karlovic had already scripted the match by becoming the oldest ATP finalist in four decades and gave Anderson a run for his money till the last point of the match’s third tie-breaker.
Living up to the reputation of the ‘big servers’ tag, both the finalists had aced their way to the final—with 88 aces in four matches and 55 aces in as many matches.
The line-personnel’s reflexes and alertness was put to test from the onset of the match as the ace count stood at 12 by the end of game eight. Expectedly, the fans were treated to ferocious aces from the giants and the points were short as there we no long rallies.
By the end of the match, Anderson (6ft 8in) racked up 21 aces, as opposed to Karlovic’s (6ft 11 in) 36.
Both the players held their serves till game 10 and Karlovic, maintaining his high rate of saving breaks points, saved two more in game to level the scores 5-5. At this stage of the game, the South African had understood that Karlovic was slow on the approach shots and it was possible to score passing winners. However, Karlovic didn’t give him a lot of chances to return the serves with his aces and forced the first set into a tie-breaker.
Appearing in his second Maharashtra Open final—after finishing runners-up last year—Anderson lived up to the occasion in style. He started attacking at the net, forcing the Croat to lob and give away points as most of them travelled long. Eventually, the pressure got the better of Karlovic as his double fault gifted the tie-breaker 4-7 to Anderson.
The second set was no different from the first. Both players continued playing to their strengths and left their opponent scrambling at the baseline with returns being miscued to the stands.
At 4-4, Karlovic bailed himself out after trailing 0-40 —courtesy aces, a bit of luck from the ball clipping the net and scrambling on to the other half, and a wild return from Anderson—to save three break points and regain the lead at 5-4.
Anderson missed another opportunity win a break point in Karlovic’s next serving game as the ‘gentle giant’ came back from behind to make it 6-5. Anderson took the set into a tie-breaker with his equally good service and passing winners tactic.
This time, Karlovic prevailed 7-2—courtesy his aces and higher count of unforced errors from Anderson—and forced the match into the deciding third set. This was the first time Anderson dropped a set all week.
Both the players started the second set with love holds and there was very little to separate between their monster serves. With their average serve speed nearly touching 200 km/h, the crowd started to get behind Karlovic with the “Ivo. Ivo” chants and the buzz around the stadium was almost deafening.
Egged by the crowd support, Karlovic began to show more agility from game four onwards. He started attacking again and timed his approach shots better. Moreover, unlike the first set, he tried to reach out for wide volleys and was successful in returning them more often than not.
Anderson was now in desperate need of some inspiration and he got that from the moment of magic he produced in game 12. A volley from Karlovic had Anderson dart back and out of nowhere, the World No.6 flicked it cross-court past Karlovic to get the crowd on their feet. Two points later, he found himself on double championship point only to be denied a Karlovic bailout and the third set went into a tie-breaker…
Trailing 2-1, Anderson had an altercation with the chair umpire for not acknowledging the line-personnel’s call at the baseline, who also thought that the ball had fallen long. He lost that point, but regrouped himself extremely quickly and reduced the deficit by one point at 4-5.
Anderson levelled the scores in the subsequent point with an inch-perfect passing winner and went on to the bag the championship after a gruelling 2 hours and 44 minutes.
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