Kevin Anderson claimed his sixth ATP Tour title with victory in Pune on Saturday. Photo: Kamran Jebreili/AP

PUNE, India – One year after finishing as runner-up to Gilles Simon, Kevin Anderson placed his hands on the Tata Open Maharashtra trophy on Saturday.

The 32-year-old South African clinched his sixth tour-level title after two hours and 44 minutes, recovering from 2-5 down in the final-set tie-break to beat Ivo Karlovic 7-6(4) 6-7(2) 7-6(5) in the tallest ATP Tour final in the Open Era. 

Breaking the record previously set by Anderson and John Isner at the 2013 BB&T Atlanta Open, 6 foot 8 inch Anderson won 88 percent of first-serve points (57/65) to overcome 6 foot 11 inch Karlovic.

“I really wanted to go one step further than last year... You don’t get to win tournaments every week, so when you do, it is very special, and it is something that definitely means a lot to me,” said Anderson at the trophy ceremony.

Now 7-1 in Pune, Anderson notched his fourth victory in five FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against the 39-year-old, to improve his record in tour-level finals to 6-13.

Last year, Anderson reached a personal-best five championship matches on the ATP Tour, picking up titles in New York and Vienna en route to his maiden appearance at the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals in London.

After Karlovic saved two championship points at 5-6 (15/40) with back-to-back aces, a final-set tie-break was required to decide the champion. Karlovic opened up an early lead and showed his best form at the net to establish a 5/2 advantage. 

After holding both service points to narrow the gap to 5/4, Anderson faced two Karlovic serves with the championship in the balance. Anderson earned both points with back-to-back passing-shot winners before firing an ace out wide to claim the title.

“It was really close. It could have gone either way,” said Anderson on court.

“Obviously I am very pleased to have gone one step further than last year... This atmosphere tonight was something I will definitely remember for the rest of my life.”

Anderson earns 250 ATP Ranking points and gains $90 990 in prize money for lifting the trophy. Karlovic receives 150 ATP Ranking points and collects $49 205.

In 2018, Anderson became the first South African to finish in the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings since No 10 Wayne Ferreira in 1996. The two-time Grand Slam finalist finished the season at No 6 with a 47-19 record.

African News Agency (ANA)