Tata Open: Kevin Anderson prevails over Kukushkin, Marin Cilic outplays Herbert

Top seed Cilic from Croatia outplayed eighth seed Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-3 6-2 in 64 minutes while Anderson survived a mighty scare from a dogged Mikhail Kukushkin.

Published: 04th January 2018 10:42 PM  |   Last Updated: 05th January 2018 11:33 AM   |  A+A-

Croatian tennis player Marin Cilic plays a shot against French tennis player Pierre-Hugues Herbert during a match at Maharashtra Open 2018 in Pune on Thursday. | PTI

Express News Service

PUNE: On the third game point for Kevin Anderson, in the fourth game of the deciding third set, Mikhail Kukushkin squared up bravely, but he could barely get a touch on another massive serve down the T by Anderson.

The Kazakh player had gamely been fighting against the almost insurmountable task, stretching the second seed to the third set. But the 6’8 Anderson’s first shot came down as a hammer blow on his challenge.

Playing competitively in India for the first time, Anderson overcame a battling Kukushkin 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 to enter the semifinals of the Tata Open Maharashtra at the Balewadi Stadium on Thursday evening.
It wasn’t the cleanest of matches from the tall South African, who hit five straight unforced errors to concede the first set tie-break to Kukushkin.

But he dug deep and sharpened up his game as the match wore on, taking control of the rallies with his big groundstrokes to finally prevail in two hours and 30 minutes. Anderson served 24 aces in the match, including the fastest of the tournament so far at 224 kph.

“The more tennis you play the more you learn to be patient,” said Anderson after the match. “I started taking it point by point. He is a very good returner and played well but I’m glad to be through.”

It is a decent start to the year for the 31-year-old Anderson, who not only came back from a spate of injuries in 2016 but also had one of his most eventful seasons last year. The South African sliced through a depleted draw to make it to the finals of the US Open. He’s far off from the highs he hit in New York, but the towering South African showed he isn’t afraid to grind out wins.

In contrast, the top seed Marin Cilic has been almost flawless through his first two matches. The 6’6 Croat is off the blocks in 2018 in a rush and made short work of eighth seed Pierre-Hugues Herbert on Thursday evening.  Cilic needed just 65 minutes to send the Frenchman packing 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals. “I don’t try to be a perfectionist,” said Cilic after giving another serving master class in Pune.

“But you have to make best use of the chances you get. I have been serving very well here and that has given me the freedom to hit from the back of the court.”

Herbert had used his classical serve and volley game to great effect during his second-round win over India’s Yuki Bhambri on Wednesday. But against the World No 6, he was pushed too far behind by the depth and pace of Cilic’s groundstrokes to employ it.

The Croat, the only singles Grand Slam champion in the field, was a class apart and won 96 per cent of his first serve points to post another dominating win.

He next takes on another Frenchman, Gilles Simon, in the final four. Anderson, meanwhile, will take on the mercurial Benoit Paire.

deepti@newindianexpress.com



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