Croatia’s Marin Cilic defeated former champion Kevin Anderson of South Africa in three sets on Sunday to win the ATP Delray Beach Open and notch his second title in three weeks.
Cilic, seeded seventh, defeated fourth-seeded Anderson 7-6 (8/6), 6-7 (7/9), 6-4 to notch his ATP Tour leading 18th match victory of the year.
He added another title to the Zagreb trophy he claimed earlier this month. He also reached the final in Rotterdam last week.
Cilic needed three hours and eight minutes to claim the victory, which was especially sweet after Saturday’s rain delay saw him start late and labor until the early hours to beat second-seeded John Isner in the semi-finals.
“It feels awesome, especially after waiting for a long time last night and finishing after 1 am,” the 29th-ranked Cilic said. “Then, today to come back and win it, I’m really happy with this victory.”
Cilic needed seven match points to snatch the title, firing 16 aces and benefiting from 12 double faults by Anderson. He converted four of his 14 break points and saved 10 of the 13 faced.
After claiming the first set in a tiebreak, Cilic was poised to raise the trophy soon after.
However, he was broken while serving for the match at 5-3 in the second set, and dropped his first match point when Anderson belted a backhand winner cross-court a game later.
Anderson would fight back again in the ensuing tiebreak, surviving a 4-1 deficit and three more match points to level the match at a set apiece.
After an early exchange of breaks in the third, Cilic gained the decisive break of serve for 3-2 and went on to seal the victory with an ace.
“It wasn’t easy for my nerves,” Cilic said.
Anderson was vying to become the fourth player to win in Delray Beach on multiple occasions, after his win in 2012.
“In the third, I just didn’t put down the clamps of getting back in the match and giving myself a chance,” Anderson said. “He was going to take one of his chances. He had a fair amount.”
? MARSEILLE OPEN
AP, MARSEILLE, France
In Marseille, third-seeded Ernests Gulbis of Latvia showed he has the temperament for big matches, extending his perfect record in finals to 5-0 after beating defending champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 to win the Open 13 title on Sunday. Gulbis, ranked 23rd, beat France’s two best players in straight sets on his way to the title, having eliminated the top-seeded Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-2 in the semi-finals.
“It’s a really nice record for me. Five-nil is really good. I remember when I used to play Futures and Challengers, I think I lost maybe one or two finals,” Gulbis said. “When I get into finals I really have good form and good confidence and play my best tennis.”
This time last year, the 25-year-old Gulbis was ranked outside the top 100, but is now on the verge of breaking into the top 20.
“My long-term goal in tennis isn’t to be top 20. It’s to be No. 1,” Gulbis said. “Anything less than that wouldn’t make me fully satisfied. I don’t want to get to 30 years old, look back on my career and say I didn’t make something of it. Everybody’s looking for satisfaction in life.”
Playing in his 19th career final, the second-seeded Tsonga was favorite to win the Open 13 for the third time and to secure an 11th career title, but he struggled with Gulbis’ attacking approach.
“I think [the top players] feel threatened by my game, because they know if I serve well and I’m aggressive, then it’s tough to play against me,” Gulbis said. “I don’t feel I’m in the same league as the [Top 4] yet, I need to prove it. Game-wise, I think that I can be.”