By John Delong, Winston-Salem Open
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Second-seeded Kevin Anderson is through to his third ATP World Tour final of 2015, and this time he plans to take home his first title of the year.
The 29-year-old South African beat Malek Jaziri 6-4, 6-3 in the semifinals of the Winston-Salem Open in the featured evening match on Stadium Court.
It was a workmanlike performance, a performance that Anderson called “a very solid match.” And it put him in a position to cap off what he already considers a very successful week.
“There have been a lot of positives this week,” Anderson said. “I was happy to be given the chance to play this week and winning, it would be fantastic, getting the feeling of being the champion. I feel this week’s been a great success and obviously tomorrow I’m going to give it my best to get the win. It would feel great. But with the US Open two days away, my biggest goal is to come out and play hard. Obviously I want to win a lot, that’s what my goal is and that’s what I want to do. But either way I’m very happy with this week.”
Anderson, currently ranked No. 15, will face qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert in Saturday’s 1 p.m. championship match.
Anderson owns two career titles, the first in his hometown of Johannesburg in 2011 and the second in his American residence of Delray Beach in 2012.
Earlier this year, he lost in the finals to Kei Nishikori in Memphis, and lost to Andy Murray in the finals at London Queen’s Club.
“I’ve had some close matches and losing’s tough, but I keep moving on,” he said. “It’s disappointing when you get that far and lose the last match, but tomorrow’s a new match, it’s a new tournament, so whatever’s happened in the past doesn’t really come into play.”
Anderson got an early wake-up call on Friday night, falling behind love-40 in the very first game. But he regrouped, held serve, and never faced another break point the rest of the night.
His break came in the final game of the first set, when Jaziri double-faulted.
Then he got the only break he needed in the second set in the fourth game, for a 3-1 lead. He wound up with 11 aces, and had 39 winners on the night to 16 unforced errors.
“He set an interesting tempo for the match,” Anderson said of Jaziri. “He came out swinging. The last time I played him, he stayed a little further back, but I thought today he was much more aggressive. So I just tried to take care of myself, take care of my serving, and I was putting myself in quite a few of his service games. I felt coming in if I could do that I was going to give myself every opportunity possible to win.”
Jaziri, currently ranked No. 88, was playing in his first ATP World Tour semifinal. He had beaten three seeded players along the way, knocking off fourth-seeded Viktor Troicki in the second round, 15th-seeded Teymuraz Gabashvili in the third round, and sixth-seeded Thomaz Bellucci in the quarterfinals.
The 31-year-old from Tunisia admitted he was worn out from playing five matches in five days, something he had never done.
“I think I was a little bit tired today,” Jaziri said. “Before the match, I played four matches in a row. I don’t normally play four matches in a row. But I can take a lot of positives from this week. I’m very happy for the week. I beat good guys. I played good tennis.”
Jaziri only double-faulted twice all night, but the one at set point in the first was costly.
“After he won the first set, his second serve was like the first,” Jaziri said of Anderson. “It’s like stronger second one. He was more aggressive. He was more on the court. He tried to push me into more mistakes. But like I said, physically I was not too good. I think I give 100 percent, but physically I was not all there.”
Anderson beat Mikhail Kukushkin in the second round, Jerzy Janowicz in the third round, and Borna Coric in the quarterfinals.
Anderson had high praise for Herbert and said he was looking forward to Saturday’s final.
“It’s a fantastic week for him to have won eight matches, coming through qualifying,” Anderson said. “He’s come back in the quarters and semis down a set and maybe down a break. It shows he’s a fighter and a big shotmaker. I’ve seen some of his matches. He is going for a lot of big shots, so I’ll have to be ready for everything.”
He has never faced Herbert in a singles match, but the two were on opposite sides in doubles at London Queen’s Club. Herbert and Nicolas Mahut emerged with a win over Anderson and Jeremy Chardy.
“He’s got a big serve,” Anderson said. “He’s very aggressive. He comes in a lot. So it’ll be a different kind of matchup. These last few matches have been more from the baseline, but he will be coming in quite a bit.”