A stirring Kevin Anderson performance at the Montecasino outdoor courts ensured that South Africa’s national Open tennis title remained in the country for the first time since Christo van Rensburg triumphed on Johannesburg’s indoor courts in 1989.
The country’s 22-year wait to once more savour a home victory will no doubt go down in the 2011 annals of South African sport as a highlight, and rightly so.
Over a period of seven days the Rainbow Nation embraced the towering Anderson, armed with a rocket-like serve, as he painstakingly worked his way through the field before he emerged a victor to capture his maiden ATP Tour title in Sunday’s summit clash.
It was most fitting that a South African had to collar the Commonwealth and Asian Games gold medallist Somdev Devvarman, of India. The Indian, who was hugely impressive with his rock-solid return of serve, had broken the hearts of South African fans by eliminating Raven Klaasen, Rik de Voest and Izak van der Merwe on his way to the final.
Anderson ran out a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 winner in a rain-interrupted South African Open final and in the process pocketed $US 76 500 and 250 ranking points.
Devvarman, whose runner-up slot will propel him into the top 100 of the South African Airways ATP Rankings earned himself $US 40 300 and 150 points. This was his second ATP Tour final appearance after he was beaten by Croatia’s Marin Cilic at the 2009 Chennai Open.
The Indian was gracious in defeat and praised the Montecasino fans. “Congratulations to Kevin who has beaten me a few times now,” said Devvarman. “I know the crowd were backing him, but they also applauded me and I felt at home.”
Anderson could not have asked for a better outcome, and the neither the hordes of fans that packed out the gaming resort over the last three days of the event. His finest moment erased the bitter-sweet memories when he succumbed in the championship round of the now defunct ATP event in Las Vegas in 2008, which he reached his first final.
“I will never forget today. To win your first ATP title in front of your own people is truly fantastic,” said Anderson. “Somdev is a great player because it is tough playing South Africans here with the altitude and crowd in their favour.”
It is ironic that at a time when South African tennis has reached a 22-year high with this Open conquest the governing body for men’s world tennis, the ATP, have seen it fit to wipe the event off their 2012 calendar.
It is a devastating blow to South Africa’s ongoing efforts to promote the game which for many years now has battled the odds.
South African tennis will leave no stone unturned in their efforts to regain a slot on the world tour in the future. It will help greatly if the ATP will acknowledge that they have a roll to play in Africa.