PUNE: World number six Kevin Anderson of South Africa won the battle of giants against 2.11 metres (6 feet 11 inches) tall Ivo Karlovic to clinch the Maharashtra Open title in Pune on Saturday (Jan 5).
Anderson, who stands at 2.03 m (6'8"), edged out the veteran Croat 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 in the tallest ATP final in the Open Era.
Anderson prevailed in the big serving duel despite the 39-year-old Karlovic, the oldest ATP finalist in more than four decades, hitting 36 aces.
The 32-year-old Anderson, who improved on his runners-up showing in the last edition to clinch his sixth tour-level title, praised his "inspirational" opponent.
"Firstly want to congratulate Ivo for a great week. What you are doing is truly inspirational... Great to see you playing this kind of tennis," Anderson said of Karlovic.
"It was really close, it could have gone either way. Obviously very, very pleased to have gone one step further than last year," added the two-time Grand Slam finalist.
As the oldest player to reach a tour-level final since a 43-year-old Ken Rosewall defeated Tom Gorman to win 1977 Hong Kong, Karlovic saved two championship points in the final set to take it to a third tie-breaker.
But Anderson held his nerve to lift the trophy a year after he lost the 2018 final to Gilles Simon of France. Anderson had beaten Simon in the semi-final on Friday.
"It was unlucky but I would like to congratulate Kevin for an unbelievable last year and this week also," Karlovic said in praise of his top-seeded opponent.
"I was down but was able to rise a little bit. It was an excellent week and hopefully I would be able to continue at this level," said Karlovic, who came into the tournament ranked 100.
The Maharashtra Open is viewed as a key warm-up event for the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open, which starts in Melbourne on Jan 14.