It has been a tough year for World No. 113 Kevin Anderson, who began this week with a 5-6 tour-level record on the season. But the South African, who is battling back from injuries, bounced back in impressive fashion at the Hall of Fame Open, where he defeated #NextGenATP American Jenson Brooksby 7-6(8), 6-4 on Sunday after two hours and 11 minutes to win his sixth ATP Tour title.
This is the former World No. 5’s first tour-level triumph since Pune in 2019. Anderson is the first South African to triumph in Newport since Neville Godwin in 2001.
“It’s been a pretty tough run with some injuries. But to be back here at the International Tennis Hall of Fame with such history, this couldn’t be a better week for me to start, hopefully, my comeback,” Anderson said during the trophy ceremony. “I’m very motivated to get back. But it all starts with each match, and I was able to really grind it out.”
The margins were thin in the first set, with neither man dropping serve. Each had opportunities, but they played well under pressure to stave off their opponent. Despite eighth-seeded Anderson having more firepower in all facets of the game, Brooksby did well to take the ball early when possible to put the 6’8” right-hander on the back foot and avoid defending too much. The 20-year-old also hit a handful of sensational passing shots to earn the crowd’s approval.
The key to the match was the first-set tie-break. Brooksby littered the highlight reel — including a perfect forehand drop volley and a laser-like forehand winner — and urged his home crowd to get behind him. But he missed a backhand return on his first set point at 6/5 and Anderson pummeled a short forehand to save a second set point at 7/8, before eventually taking the 77-minute opener with a screaming backhand return winner up the line.
After dropping that pivotal tie-break, Brooksby, who has proven himself a fierce competitor this week, let slip his focus for just a moment. That period was long enough for Anderson to earn the lone service break of the match in the opening game of the second set.
From there, the World No. 113 rode his dominant serve to the victory, striking 16 aces and winning all 11 of his service games.
Anderson, a wild card, made his only previous appearance on the Newport grass in 2008, when he was a 22-year-old ranked World No. 115. Since then, he has reached two major finals and competed at the Nitto ATP Finals in 2018.
“Thanks to the tournament for giving me a wild card. It definitely worked out for me,” Anderson said. “The last time I was here was in 2008. It’s significant in a way. I was just starting my career, and I guess I’m towards the end, but definitely [am] very motivated to keep going.”
Brooksby was the second-youngest finalist in this tournament’s 45-year history, and he was trying to lift the trophy on his ATP Tour main draw debut. It has been a breakthrough season for the Californian, who is 32-6 at all levels.
“It’s amazing to get all the support from you guys, it gives me energy,” Brooksby said. “It was awesome playing here and I hope to be back again and pushing for more of these results.”