World no. 14 Kevin Anderson continued his fine form by advancing to the finals of the Tata Open Maharashtra here today after he defeated France's Benoit Paire in the second semifinal of the tournament held at the Mhalunge Balewadi Stadium, Pune.
The second-seeded Anderson beat the fourth-seed Benoit Paire in three sets 6-7, 7-6, 6-1 in a grinding contest. Earlier in the day, Gilles Simon had sprung a surprise in the first singles' semifinal as he came back from a set down to defeat the top-seed and world no. six Marin Cilic in three sets 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.
The second semifinal was a well-matched contest as both the players were equally potent with their skills. Anderson was serving well as he hit 10 aces inside the first set, while Paire was equally good with his service points, winning 20 out of 26 off his first serve. However, in the tie-break of the first set, it was Paire who kept his nerve to take it at 7-6.
Anderson came back strongly in the second set to deny Paire any chance of securing the match winning 30 out of 38 service points, which included winning 100% points (9 out of 9) off his second serve. Paire was threatening with his first serve, winning 16 out of 17 service points, taking the second set into the tie-breaker as well. However, Anderson came out on top in the second attempt to ensure the match went into the deciding set.
In the third set, Anderson held his serve and the broke Paire’s to start well, taking a well-deserved 3-0 lead. The 2017 US Open finalist showed why he has been in such fine form as he continued to serve well, hitting seven aces in the final set to win 6-1 and book his place in the final. Anderson hit a total of 26 aces in the match to make it 60 aces in the three matches he has played in Pune.
The win will see 14th-ranked Kevin Anderson play world no. 89 Gilles Simon in the final match of the Tata Open Maharashtra on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, the 2009 & 2010 champion Cilic had lost to Frenchman Gilles Simon in the first semifinal. The Croat had come into the semifinal on the back of a quarterfinal victory against France's Pierre-Hugues Herbert on Thursday. The Croat had previously played Simon on six occasions, losing to the Frenchman five times. Therefore, it was important for the world no. 6 to start the match well if he was to qualify for the final of the singles competition. He did exactly that as he served well in the first set, winning 11 out of 12 points off his first serve. The good start saw Cilic take a 5-0 lead in the set that was enough for him to take the set 6-1 in the end.
It looked like the 29-year-old Croat would run away with the game in the second set as well but it wasn’t to happen, as Simon looked lively, answering the crowd’s encouragement by displaying some amazing returns to make a comeback into the match.
The 33-year-old Frenchman pulled up his socks and led by four games to nil in the second set, but Cilic came back to win the next two games to make it 4-2, still in Simon’s favour. However, in the seventh game, Simon held his serve at a crucial stage of the match to lead by 5-2. Cilic also held his serve and hoped for the Frenchman to lose the ninth game but the world no. 89’s confidence rose as he won the second set 6-3.
In the third set, Simon broke Cilic’s serve in the first game itself and continued his momentum as he led by 5-2 and was serving for the match.Cilic looked nothing like the player who started the match aggressively to win the first set, and it was the 33-year-old Simon who kept his calm and served superbly to make his way into the final of the Tata Open Maharashtra as he secured the last set 6-3.