Pune: South Africa’s 32-year-old Kevin Anderson and Croatia’s 39-year-old Ivo Karlovic set up what is set to be a high-flying final at the season-opening Tata Open Maharashtra with contrasting semi-final wins on Friday.
Karlovic, who turns 40 next month beat Belgium’s Steve Darcis 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-3 in a match that had a combined age of 74 and became the oldest finalist in ATP history since Ken Roswell back in 1977.
Meanwhile, in last year’s final rematch, top seed Kevin Anderson came through in straight sets, beating defending champion and third seed Gilles Simon 6-3, 7-6(3)
Before the match, Darcis – who has a record-breaking semi-final himself after missing out on the 2018 season – said that he won’t be able to reach as balls from the big-server. “It won’t be an easy match for me I wont touch many balls but I know his game, it is part of tennis and it is tough to play guys like this but I will do my best,” he told Scroll.in.
And it turned out to be just that as Karlovic fired 33 aces through the match, leaving Darcis frustrated. But the 34-year-old – the first unranked ATP finalist – can take heart from the fact that he is the only player to break the veteran’s serve thus far in Pune.
After losing the first set which had no breaks of serve in the tiebreaker, Darcis was swift with his returns in the second. He got his the first break point of the match when Karlovic fluffed two volleys in the first game of the second set.
But he finally got ahead in the match when he broke in the seventh game as Karlovic smashed a moonball long and then consolidated it with another accurate passing winner to take a 5-3 lead. Serving for the set a game later, he held it to force the match into a decider.
It was the Croatian who got the early break in the decider and consolidated, despite a few nervy moments and a double fault, before closing out the historic win.
In the second singles match of the day, Anderson managed to avenge his final loss to Simon. With his first serve firing, a single break gave Anderson the advantage.
But in front of a crowd that has adopted the Frenchman as their own during his title run last year, the third seed raised his game, even after an early break in the second. And when he broke back Anderson to put the set back on serve, the crowd roared in unison.
But, unlike the quarter-final against compatriot Benoit Paire, he was unable to press advantage. Serving to stay in the set at 5-6, Anderson went 0-30 down and then surrendered a double set point to the defending champion, but managed to save both and take it to the tiebreaker.
An one-the-line winner at the service mark gave Simon the first point after a long baseline rally but errors from him gave big-serving Anderson a 5-1 lead. An ace from the South African brought up five match points, and the writing was on the wall for Simon.
Simon, though, walked out with thundering applause from a crowd that is sure to miss him in the final.