South Africa’s Kevin Anderson beat Julien Benneteau of France 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (8) on Friday in a match between players separated by a single ranking point to reach the final of the Sydney International.
Last year’s runner-up, Benneteau edged Anderson by the solitary point to claim the 32nd and last seeding place at next week’s Australian Open after Anderson passed up the chance to earn ranking points by representing South Africa at the Hopman Cup.
Anderson had a small revenge Friday when he beat Benneteau in a thrilling match of almost 2-1/2 hours.
He will now face Australia’s Bernard Tomic who kept up his outstanding early season form to beat third-seeded Andreas Seppi 7-6 (8), 6-4 and reach his first ATP Tour final.
Tomic, known for his volatile temperament, showed character and fortitude as he overcame heat stress to beat Seppi for his seventh-straight win in 2013.
He now has the chance to become the first Australian winner of the Sydney tournament since Lleyton Hewitt in 2005 and the first 20-year-old to win the title since Roger Federer in 2002.
”It’s about time, huh?” said Tomic who was a two-time junior grand slam winner. ”It really means a lot to make my first final here in Sydney.”
Ranked 36, Anderson played his way into his fourth tour final and remained on course for his third title, rallying from a set down to beat the 35th-ranked Benneteau.
Benneteau broke Anderson’s powerful serve twice, in the fifth and ninth games, while dominating on his own serve to take the first set in 31 minutes.
Anderson fought back behind his improved serve to take the second set, serving four aces and adding nine clean winners to reclaim the initiative.
Benneteau, in contrast, struggled to hold serve and found himself suddenly on the defensive. He was broken in the ninth game, allowing Anderson to serve out the set.
Little separated the players in the final set and both gave up their serve once before heading into a tiebreaker. The tiebreak went back and forth for 19 points before Anderson finally clinched victory with an overhead winner.
Tomic complained of dizziness during the first set of his match with 23rd-ranked Seppi and had to call for attention from the tour trainer while leading 5-4.
He then fended off four set points in the tiebreaker before snatching the first set in 55 minutes when Seppi played a forehand into the net.
Seppi, who led Novak Djokovich by two sets at last year’s French Open, gave up the second set when he dropped serve in the ninth game. Tomic took a 5-4 lead and made no mistake in serving out the match in 1 hour, 23 minutes.