Seeded seventh and ranked 36th in the world, Kevin Anderson was the outright favorite over qualifier Marinko Matosevic in the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships final. Although it was no cakewalk, Anderson managed to fend off Matosevic 6-4, 7-6 to bank the trophy.
Matosevic was attempting to become the third qualifier to hoist the big prize and the fifth Australian to win the ITC. The last Aussie was Lleyton Hewitt in 1999. Anderson was the first South African to advance to the final in the history of the tournament.
With Anderson breaking his opponent in the opening game, there was a sense that Matosevic would have a short afternoon. But, the stellar serving which allowed Anderson to dispatch top seed John Isner in the semifinals deserted him initially.
Consequently, the players exchanged break the first five games. Finally, Anderson consolidated to move ahead 4-2. With Anderson’s serve finally clicking, he maintained the advantage to carry the first set.
In the initial game of the second set, Anderson manufactured break point on a forehand error by Matosevic. But the latter found a way to undo the disadvantage and ultimately hold serve.
On Matosevic’s next service round, Anderson had three break point opportunities and failed to capitalize. As a result, Matosevic guarded serve for 2-1.
Later, Matosevic faced adversity again going down 0-40 as Anderson connected on a great forehand up the line pass for a winner. Yet, once more, Matosevic found the escape route to inch in front 4-3.
In total, Anderson came up empty on eight break points in the second set. Still, the positive news for the South African was that Matosevic could not fabricate any break point.
Eventually, the set was extended by a tiebreaker. As a result of a miscue, Matosevic gave Anderson the first point. When Anderson soon returned the favor, the players were back on serve.
However, by provoking two successive flubs from Matosevic, Anderson captured a double mini-break edge. Promptly with a volley winner, Anderson arrived at 6-1 and had a sleuth of championship points.
When the rally ended on a forehand error by Matosevic, Anderson dropped to the ground as he realized that the title was his.
Anderson was proud of the way he dealt with wasting all those break point and acknowledged that Matosevic “came up with fantastic shots” on those occasions.
For Anderson, the victory is a confidence builder “with two big tournaments coming up [Indian Wells and Miami], I could not ask for a better result”.
A twelve match winning streak was terminated for Matosevic. Still, his progress this week was substantial in reaching his maiden ATP final.
Matosevic’s results this week included taking down Ivo Karlovic, Alex Bogomolov Jr. and 2010 champion Ernests Gulbis. Ranked 173rd, on Monday, Matosevic will be just outside the top hundred, his highest ranking to date.