Kevin Anderson wins battle of serves to clinch Maharashtra Open title

Kevin Anderson and Ivo Karlovic blasted a combined 57 aces to take all the three sets to tie-breakers, but the top seed lived up to his billing by winning the crucial points to seal a 7-6(4), 6(2)-7, 7-6(5) win and clinch the Maharashtra Open title .

Kevin Anderson of South Africa celebrates with the trophy after winning the men’s singles title in Pune on Saturday.   -  R. Ragu

 

Top seed Kevin Anderson defeated Ivo Karlovic in a gruelling three-set thriller to win the Maharashtra Open in Pune on Saturday, twelve months after losing at the same stage.

Both Anderson and Karlovic aced their way to the final – with 88 aces in four matches, and 55 aces in matches, respectively. And with serve being the pair's strong suit, the linesmen's reflexes were put to test today. By the eighth game, the ace count stood at 12.

Even with their giant strides and reaches, Anderson (6ft 8in) and Karlovic (6ft 11in) regularly struggled to get to each other’s serves – often miscuing returns into the packed stands, sending the fans scrambling for the ball.

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Both players held their serves comfortably till the ninth game. At 5-4, Karlovic saved two set points to make it 5-5.

With the first set going into a tiebreaker, Anderson made it count. He varied his shots well and ran to the net often, forcing the Croatian to try and lob – which often went long. The Croat got back two points but he followed it up with a double fault, giving the tiebreaker to the South African 7-4.

The second set saw more of the same, with both players going the extra distance by regularly holding games to love.

At 4-4, Karlovic offered a triple-breakpoint opportunity to Anderson. An ace, a bit of luck with the ball clipping the net and a return from Anderson that flew into the net helped him save all three and an ace, unsurprisingly, helped him take the game.

The 39-year-old Karlovic, the oldest ATP Tour finalist since Ken Rosewall in 1977, was up for the fight against the World No. 6.

Kevin Anderson (left) and Ivo Karlovic of Croatia treated the crowd to a flurry of aces in the final.   -  R. Ragu

 

One game later, Anderson had another chance to break the serve, but Karlovic saved, again, and the second set was also taken to a tiebreaker. This time, Karlovic prevailed 7-2, courtesy another barrage of aces from his racquet and a double fault from Anderson.

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Before the tournament started, the organisers announced the 'Ace for SOFOSH' initiative where every ace would see a fixed amount being donated to SOFOSH, a Pune-based NGO. A generous Karlovic fired 36 aces in the final; Anderson helped along with 21.

The deciding set followed the same pattern, with both the players holding their serves till 5-5. In game 11, Anderson managed to tame Karlovic's serve and got a double championship point. Karlovic, as he did for much of this match and the tournament, dug himself out with three aces to force a third tiebreaker.

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The tiebreaker that followed was all about who could get the returns in and follow it up by out-foxing the other with their aces. Anderson, who leads the World No. 100 3-1 in head-to-head, barely managed to hold fort on the Croat's serves and went down 5-2 before a pair of forehand and backhand volleys, possibly the best returns of the match, and a passing winner saw him win another championship.

A cross-court ace fittingly saw the top seed win the tiebreak 7-5 and clinch the championship.

The result:

 Kevin Anderson bt Ivo Karlovic 7-6(4), 6(2)-7, 7-6(5).