Anderson Goes The Distance, Reaches Newport Final

Kevin Anderson (photo: @TennisHalloFame/Twitter)

NEWPORT, R.I./WASHINGTON, July 18, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

While 113th-ranked Kevin Anderson of South Africa is no stranger to playing in ATP Tour finals, having appeared in 19 previous title matches, the last time he reached a final was more than two years ago. It came in Pune, India, back in early 2019, a tournament which he won.

On Saturday, in the first semifinal match at the Hall of Fame Open against top seed Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan, the 35-year-old Anderson overcame some early wobbles in his game. He recovered from being down a set and a break and finished strong to win 4-6, 7-6 (3), 7-5 in two hours and 43 minutes. Anderson’s 11th victory of the season enabled him to advance to Sunday’s ATP 250 final on grass at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport.

In the title match, the former US Open and Wimbledon finalist Anderson will go after his seventh career ATP singles title – and first on grass – against first-time ATP Tour finalist Jenson Brooksby of the United States. It will be their first meeting.

“This is the first week I’ve seen him play. I know he’s done really well this year on the Challenger circuit and won a bunch of matches there,” Anderson said during his post-match press conference. “It’s a high quality of tennis. People sometimes forget just how deep the sport is. It shows he’s a competitor and knows how to win matches.”

Against Bublik, after falling behind by a double-break lead and later losing the opening set, Anderson rallied and excelled during a second set tie-break that sent the match to a decider. Later, Anderson set up his semifinal victory by firing his 20th ace out wide to Bublik’s forehand, then hit an overhead winner on match point to secure a berth in his 20th career final. The victory marked the third time this year that Anderson has come back to win after losing the first set.

Anderson, who has hit 74 aces this week on grass in Newport, has now recorded back-to-back 20 ace efforts. Against the 37th-ranked Bublik, in addition to firing 20 aces, he also won 78 percent (54 of 69) of his first-serve points, saved four of seven break points, and converted three of five break-point chances. He outpointed Bublik 112-108.

“It’s the biggest match of the week, and I’ve worked a long time to be back in a final,” Anderson said after his semifinal victory. “It’s been quite some time for me [since my last final], so it means a lot to me. I am going to enjoy this win, and I hope to be ready for tomorrow.”

Anderson’s week in Newport has been very rewarding because by reaching the final, he’s assured himself of a main draw berth in next month’s US Open. Also, he will break into the Top 100 next week.

“After Wimbledon, I saw that I wasn’t going to be in the main draw, so I emailed the tournament and they were kind enough to give me a wild card,” Anderson recalled during an on-court interview. “I knew I had to make the semis in order to reach the main draw, that was the first step. Now, I hope that tomorrow I can go one step further.”

Fog descends and Brooksby ascends to title match

Meanwhile, the 20-year-old Brooksby scored a hard-fought 6-3, 7-6 (3) victory over No. 7 seed Jordan Thompson of Australia to reach his first ATP Tour-level final. The 152nd-ranked Brooksby used a big serve and his ability to retrieve balls and turn defense into an attack offense to beat the pesky 71st-ranked Thompson.

The two-hour match began in sunshine and finished under diminished daylight and with the onset of fog hovering over the stadium court at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

After winning the opening set, Brooksby found himself down 2-5 in the second set as the momentum had swung in Thompson’s favor. However, Brooksby won three consecutive games to level matters at 5-all and saved two set points. Then, after taking the set to a tie break, he won the final four points to win the semifinal in straight sets. Brooksby took advantage of a total of four mini service breaks during the tie break.

I’m very excited to be in the final tomorrow and in such a great place, but I’m just going to try to treat it like it’s every other match and go out there with the same strategy,” Brooksby said during an on-court interview. “I’m just excited to get out here tomorrow.”

After winning three ATP Challenger Tour titles and reaching the final of a fourth one earlier this year, Brooksby is competing in just his third tour-level main draw and Newport is his first event on grass. In advancing to Sunday’s final, Brooksby is the second-youngest finalist in the 45-year history of the Hall of Fame Open, since then-19-year-old Greg Rusedski in 1993.

“I’ve been getting a lot of matches under my belt this year, a lot wins,” Brooksby said later during his press conference. His win over Thompson improved his win-loss record in all competitions improved to 32-6. “I try to treat the ATP [main draws] just the same as any tournament. Definitely, getting a lot of wins and match experience has helped me throughout this week and in all of the close matches.”

Around the Hall of Fame Open

• Wild card pair William Blumberg and Jack Sock, both from the United States, defeated No. 2 seeds Jonathan Erlich of Israel and Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico, 7-6 (0), 6-3, to advance to Sunday’s doubles final against Vasek Pospisil of Canada and Austin Krajicek of the United States.

• Following the semifinal matches, the induction ceremonies of the International Tennis Hall of Fame Class of 2020 (postponed from last year due to the pandemic) and the Class of 2021 took place Saturday evening on the Hall of Fame grounds. Inducted were: Conchita Martinez of Spain, winner of the 1994 Wimbledon ladies’ singles title, and Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia, who won Wimbledon in 2001, representing the Class of 2020; and coach Dennis Van der Meer and the women’s WTA’s Original Nine professionals, including Billie Jean King, Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Julie Heldman, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Judy Tegart Dalton and Kerry Melville Reid.

By the numbers

At 35, Kevin Anderson is the fifth-oldest Newport finalist and he’s trying to become the third-oldest winner behind Ivo Karlovic (37) in 2016 and Fabrice Santoro (35) in 2008.