Pune: With the Australian Open in the horizon, Anderson got his 2019 season off to a winning start by beating Ivo Karlovic in the final to win his first Maharashtra Open title at the second time of asking. In a battle of giants, Anderson prevailed 7-6 (4), 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5) in two hours and forty four minutes to win the title after losing the final to Gilles Simon last year.
Anderson, who beat Simon in straight sets in the final, had a far tougher outing in the final against the big-serving Karlovic. The final was also the tallest in the Open era with Karlovic standing at 6’11” and Anderson at 6’8”.
In a clash of the big servers — the duo had 143 aces between them in the tournament before the final — Anderson had better returns and battled his way past the Croatian serve-and-volley specialist.
In a match which saw neither players breaking the opponent's service game, it was Anderson who had as many as eight breakpoint opportunities. However, each time Karlovic put his booming serve to good use and got away with the games.
In the 10th game of the first set, Anderson had two set points but Karlovic escaped with the game with two service winners. Both players notched comfortable holds in the following two games to force the tiebreaker in the first set. The pressure seemed to get to Karlovic as he double faulted twice to hand Anderson the first set.
In his semi-final, Karlovic faced little to no opposition on his serve against Steve Darcis as the Belgian couldn't find a way past Karlovic. However, Anderson with his height and formidable reach, was able to trouble Karlovic and was able to get past Karlovic on numerous occasions with well-placed passing shots.
In the ninth game, Anderson had a triple breakpoint after hitting some exquisite passing forehand winners past Karlovic. Karlovic saved two breakpoints with an ace and a fortuitous net caught and ultimately went on to hold the game with a fierce ace. Anderson had another breakpoint in the 11th game but Karlovic once again served himself out of trouble.
With a vocal crowd backing him, the 39-year-old Croatian raced through the tiebreaker to level the scores and force the match into a third and deciding third set.
The third set again saw neither player able to break their opponent but once again Anderson came closest and nearly won the match. In the 12th game, Anderson put pressure on Karlovic's serve and held two championship points. Karlovic hit two back-to-back serves over 200 km/h to get to deuce and then hit another sizzling ace to force the match into a decisive tie-break.
Anderson had the worst start to the tiebreaker. On the fourth point, a line umpire called Karlovic's forehand out only to be quickly corrected by the chair umpire. Anderson was thrown off by the call and ended up sending his forehand long. He argued with the chair umpire for the point to be replayed but to no avail. With chants of "Ivo! Ivo!" ringing around the Balewadi Stadium, Anderson saw Karlovic race to a 5-2 lead.
"It’s tough. It's a call that comes within moments. For me the biggest challenge was to reset quickly because if I went down two mini-service breaks, it would have been very difficult. My focus was to calm down and win the next point and I was able to do it very well. It was a key moment for to come back after that and win that next point.” Anderson said after the match.
Anderson was cornered with Karlovic having the opportunity to serve for the title. However, two brilliant forehand passing winners from the top seed saw the dynamics of the match change and Anderson clinched the title with an ace out wide to cheers from the Pune crowd.
In the 2018 final, Anderson was the higher ranked player against the underdog in Simon. The Frenchman completed an unlikely win riding on the support of the Pune fans. On Saturday, Anderson was up against another beloved underdog in Karlovic but the South African ensured that the memory of last year's final's loss didn’t come back to haunt him.
"Last year's match wasn't on my mind. It was a completely different opponent and situation and I was focussed on doing my best. It is a tough match playing against Ivo. I am very very pleased to walk away with the title," Anderson said.
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Updated Date: Jan 06, 2019 20:32:37 IST