Kevin Anderson, the No. 7 seed from South Africa by way of the University of Illinois, built on victories over Andy Roddick and John Isner to win the Delray Beach International title here with a solid 6-4, 7-6 (2) win over Australian qualifier Marinko Matosevic.
To say that Anderson’s time at Illinois was a love affair seems something of an understatement. Cheering from courtside was Kelsey Anderson, his bride of three months, who works as an auditor in Chicago and played on the Illini golf team.
Kelsey was giving her man a backrub in the players’ lounge before he went on court and, if that wasn’t exactly the secret to his success, it did no harm for this 6-foot-8 giant who withstood a tough examination from the extroverted, hard-hitting Matosevic who had won 12 straight matches before falling one short of his first ATP title.
For Anderson, it was his second title success on the tour after he won on home soil in Johannesburg last year. On this week’s evidence, he is a better player than his pre-tournament ranking of 36 suggested and will be moving up from now on.
So will Matosevic, who will rise about 50 ranking spots from a lowly No. 173 after this surprise success. “I couldn’t get up for it today,” Matosevic said, while beaming with his engaging smile. “I didn’t get to sleep till 1 a.m. and woke up against at 5. I was getting calls from Australia ’til midnight and it was all a bit much for me, I guess. I’m not used to all this attention. I was trying everything on court to get myself pumped — energy gel, Gatorade, Pepsi, you name it. But he did what he had to do and was just too tough.”
No matter how exhausted he felt, Matosevic kept on fighting and saved no less than eight break points against his serve in the second set before succumbing 7-2 in the tiebreaker. That was in sharp contrast to the first set when, amazingly for two big servers, the first five games of the match went against serve with Anderson coming out ahead 3-2.
“We were both a bit nervous, I guess,” Anderson said. “But after a couple of double faults, I settled down and stayed mentally composed throughout. In the end, I knew I had to take it from him because he wasn’t going to roll over.”
Rest won’t be on the Australian’s immediate agenda. Matosevic has an early flight to Palm Springs on Monday morning because he will be playing in the qualifying for the ATP Masters Series event at Indian Wells the following day.
Ross Hutchins and Colin Fleming became the first British pair to win at Delray when they grabbed a thrilling victory in the doubles final 15-13 in the third-set super tiebreaker, beating Michal Mertinak and Andre Sa 2-6, 7-6 (5), 15-13. Hutchins and Fleming saved a match point and needed five of their own after trailing 3-6 in a fluctuating tiebreaker.