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Simon sees off Anderson to claim Pune crown

Gilles Simon (left) was part of the France team that claimed the 2017 Davis Cup. Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP

Gilles Simon capped a remarkable week in India on Saturday when he returned to his tenacious best to beat the second seed Kevin Anderson in straight sets to claim the Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune.

The 33-year-old Frenchman won 7-6 6-2 to collect the 13th title of his career and his first since his triumph in February 2015 in Marseille.

In 2017, Simon, a former world number six, dropped from 25th to 89th in the rankings. But the season finished on a high when he was part of the France team that hoisted the Davis Cup at the expense of Belgium.

In Pune in the first round, Simon eased past the American journeyman Tennys Sandgren in straight sets and then saw off the third seed Roberto Bautista Agut. The Spaniard, ranked 20th, was dispatched also in straight sets.

There was an unfussy straight sets win over the Spanish qualifier Ricardo Ojedra Lara in the last eight before he shocked the top seed Marin Cilic. The world number six claimed the first set 6-1. But Simon stormed back to take the second 6-3 and surged through the decider 6-2 to overcome the Croatian for the sixth time in seven meetings.

Anderson, who reached the final of the US Open in September, had averted the prospect of an all-French final when he dispatched Benoit Paire in their semi-final on Friday.

The 31-year-old South African had won all three of his meetings with Simon who failed to take the first set when he served for it at 5-3 up.

Anderson clawed his way back to parity at 5-5 but faltered in the tiebreak to lose it by seven points to four.

It was the first time that he had dropped the opening set to the Frenchman. And while the first set was evenly balanced, from 2-2 in the second it became a rout.

Simon broke to lead 3-2 and then won the next three games to wrap up the final. “It is the first time I managed to beat him,” Simon said. “I don’t know how I did it but I’m really happy.”

Even though Anderson hit 29 winners, Simon forced him to play an extra ball and that resilience led to 40 unforced errors. “Gilles made life difficult for me,” said Anderson graciously after his defeat. “You’re a terrific player and obviously 2017 was a little tough for you but you’re back in good form so I wish you all the best for the Australian Open and the rest of the year.”