WINSTON-SALEM (AP) — Second-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa won his first title in more than three years when he beat French qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-4, 7-5 in the Winston-Salem Open on Saturday.
Anderson, ranked 15th, needed just 92 minutes to secure his third career ATP World Tour tournament title, and his first since winning at Delray Beach, Florida, on March 4, 2012.
“Coming into the week, I had some high expectations,” Anderson said. “But I was thinking back to my first match against (Kazakhstan’s Mikhail) Kukushkin on Court 2, and not playing the best first set. I had to save a bunch of break points and getting broken, and even breaking my racket.
“But things seemed to click after that — I felt I served very well throughout the week. But as each match progresses and you get closer to the finals, and a chance of winning the tournament, that starts to play in your mind.”
Since his 2012 title, Anderson was winless in seven finals before Saturday’s victory at the Wake Forest Tennis Center, including losses at Memphis, Tennessee, and Queen’s Club in London this year.
“I’ve been in the finals a few times and come up a little bit short, which is always tough,” said Anderson, who is the 15th seed in the upcoming U.S. Open. “But if feels fantastic to get that win. It’s been a few years since I’ve won a tournament, and it’s definitely something I can look back on and feel happy about.”
In advancing to his first career ATP final, Herbert was playing his ninth match in eight days — three qualifying matches to make the main draw, then five more wins to make it to the final.
Herbert was attempting to become the first player in 19 years to win nine matches en route to an ATP tournament title.
But Anderson served 16 aces, giving him a tournament-best 73 in five matches, and broke Herbert’s serve twice — in the fifth game of the first set, and the 11th game of the second set.
Herbert had his chances. After giving up just four points on serve in the first set, Anderson had to save four break points in taking the fourth game of the second set.
“Getting down love-40, it’s very important getting back,” Anderson said. “Going down a break against someone who’s serving the way (Herbert) was serving would have been tough. Getting through that game was a turning point for me.”
After saving his serve, Anderson would give up only six more points to Herbert in his final three service games.
“I got a little bit tight (in the second set), and I don’t know why,” Herbert said. “I don’t know if I was starting to feel a little bit tired, but (Anderson) was playing great. He was serving unbelievable the whole match, really consistent and there was nothing much I could do.”
Still, Herbert will get a big boost in the rankings heading into the U.S. Open. Ranked 140th entering Winston-Salem, Herbert will begin play at Flushing Meadows ranked a career-best No. 90. His previous career high was 107th in January.
“It’s been a very positive week,” Herbert said. “I came here to play some matches; I didn’t expect to play that many matches. But I’m arriving at the U.S. Open with a lot of optimism.”