Allez! Simon Returns To Title Town
By all measures, 2017 was a struggle for Gilles Simon. The veteran Frenchman managed just a 16-25 record and finished outside the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings for the first time since 2005.
But if Simon’s performance in the opening week of the new ATP World Tour campaign is a sign of things to come, the World No. 89 is back in form. The 33-year-old defeated second seed Kevin Anderson 7-6(4), 6-2 on Sunday in Pune to earn his first title since the Open 13 Marseille in 2015 (d. Monfils) and his 13th trophy overall (13-6 in finals).
"It was a great match, I think a great performance. I never beat Kevin before so to be able to beat him in the final is a great achievement for me," Simon said. "It’s so hard to feel comfortable against him because he has a huge serve and is really controlling the game, but I managed to stay calm on my side and to just play my game."
Anderson was not the only top player Simon took out at India's ATP World Tour 250 event. After winning just two Top 20 matches in all of 2017, he defeated each of the Top 3 seeds, beating defending champion and third seed Roberto Bautista Agut (World No. 20) in the second round, top seed Marin Cilic (World No. 6) in the semi-finals and Anderson (World No. 14) in the championship match.
It was Simon’s first victory against Anderson in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, after losing their previous three matches. Yet it was Simon who looked in control, frustrating the South African throughout the match with a combination of defence and timely counter-punching.
"It's the first time I managed to beat him," Simon said. "I still don't know how I did it. I'm really, really happy I was able to make it."
While Anderson hit 29 winners in the match, Simon consistently made him play an extra ball, forcing the big-server into 40 unforced errors. The Frenchman came out on top in a 39-shot rally to close out the first-set tie-break, and broke his opponent twice at the end of the second set to clinch the victory in his first final since the Moselle Open in 2015 (l. to Tsonga)
"Just really want to congratulate Gilles. It was a really tough match. You really made life difficult for me out there today," Anderson said. "But he's a terrific player. Obviously last year was a little tough for you but obviously you're back in good form so I wish you all the best for Australia and the rest of the year."
With the triumph, Simon earns 250 ATP Rankings points and $89,435, while Anderson leaves Pune with 150 points and $47,105. For the Frenchman, it's a step in the right direction — the former World No. 6 is projected to soar back into the Top 60 on Monday.
"I didn’t have a good season last year," Simon said with a laugh. "I will try to do better in 2018. I will try to work on it to go back to where I was before."
Simon had an opportunity to gain even more confidence by winning the doubles title as well, as he partnered Pierre-Hugues Herbert against second seeds Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop. But the Dutchmen earned the title, 7-6(5), 7-6(5), to stop Simon from becoming the first player to win both the singles and doubles title in India since Xavier Malisse in 2007.
This is the first time the event was held in Pune, after previously being played in Chennai.