Anderson halts French revolution in Pune

Kirti Patil
Saturday, 6 January 2018

Hot from winning Abu Dhabi exhibition title, Kevin Anderson digs deep to beat erratic-but-brilliant Benoit Paire to set up summit clash against Gilles Simon


Pune: South African No 2 seed Kevin Anderson stopped what could have been a French revolution of a tennis kind at the Balewadi Tennis Complex as he won a slugfest against France’s World No 41 Benoit Paire in the second semifinal at the ATP 250 Series Tata Open Maharashtra tennis tournament on Friday evening.

Arriving here after winning the season-opening 8-player Invitational Abu Dhabi exhibition event last Sunday, Kevin Anderson was given a scare by temperamental Benoit Paire, who was seemingly inspired by his countryman Gilles Simon’s demolition job of World No 6 Marin Cilic.

For reasons beyond any comprehension, the packed Centre Court crowd supported Frenchmen to the hilt—Gilles Simon was first to get the support and Paire the next—but Anderson showed he was ready for the long haul even if it meant some emotional outbursts from Paire.

Tennis fans were treated to booming serves and engaging rallies early on when unseeded Gilles Simon, who held 5-1 head-to-head record over the Croatian former US Open champion Cilic, effected the first upset of the day in a three-set battle that initiated the day’s proceedings.

A 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 win in 1 hour and 51 minutes and 35 seconds helped Simon to make his first final since 2015 Metz ATP Tour event.

No doubt Simon was helped by vociferous crowd that somehow got behind him instead of the top seeded Cilic, who suffered as the Frenchman counterpunched effectively.

I was serving good in the first set, but he tried to put more balls in,” said Cilic after his loss.

I was going for long rallies, but the ball was just not coming on court. My shots were not as good as I thought would be,” contended the 2009 Champion when this tournament was played in Chennai.

Simon, who was described as dangerous by Cilic only a day before proved so with his counterpunching game that upset the applecart of the Croatian.

The 6’6” tall Cilic was off the blocks soon after the game began. He hit some passing winners and crosscourt returns that caught Simon on the wrong foot as the Frenchman stared at 0-5 deficit.

I thought he (Simon) had little more time to play and after winning two-three break points he was back in the game,” explained Cilic, who rued that he missed a lot of his first serves even as he took the first set 6-1.

Soon after crowd began to rally after Simon and he found his rhythm in time as he sent down range of shots all over the court to unsettle Cilic first before breaking him could on times in the next two sets.

He is very good and solid player and knows how to play good tennis,” said Cilic whose goal remains to add one more Grand Slam trophy to his collection this season.

Maybe I would like to finish in top 5 at the end of this season. I need to be little bit more aggressive. If I was able to do that today, I could have won,” said Cilic, the 2017 Wimbledon finalist.

The gangling Croatian made a number of unforced errors and though he got a break back, that was not enough. Simon wrapped up the second set 6-3. The Frenchman returned superbly, and sent down couple of breathtaking passing winners when Cilic approached net.

In the decider, the former World top-10 player broke Cilic in the first game, capitalising on couple of unforced errors. Cilic had a great chance of levelling scores by getting the break back as he earned two break points in the second game. But Simon showed great resolve and won the longest game of match that went to deuce four times.

That seems to have taken a lot from Cilic. Simon, whose last title came in 2015 Marseille, broke him again in the eighth game and went on to serve out the match.

Anderson through to final
The way Benoit Paire had been playing all this week and the kind of luck he carried through this season-opener where he came in to play the Qualifying tournament after missing out on sending entry before deadline, it looked the luck was him this evening too.

With the crown already decided for an all-French final, Paire got all the support he neede, but the stony-faced Anderson, gave little inch even though he was stretched to tie-breakers in the first two sets.

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