Second seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa used his powerful serve to end the unlikely run of French qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert with a 6-4, 7-5 victory in the final of the Winston-Salem Open in North Carolina on Saturday.
One break of serve in each set was enough for Anderson to clinch the third ATP title of his career and end a streak of losing seven straight finals.
The tall South African was broken only once in the entire tournament at Wake Forest University in a promising warm-up for the US Open, which begins on Monday. Anderson, 29, has a mediocre record at Flushing Meadows, where he has never made it to the Round of 16. He will begin his US Open campaign against Russian teenager Andrey Rublev in the first round next week.
"I've been in a few finals and come up short which is always tough," a relieved Anderson told reporters. "Each final is a different situation and for some reason it just hadn't happened for me. Maybe it's a bit of an added pressure to be the favourite coming into the final."
Anderson was in danger of dropping his serve against Herbert only once, in the fourth game of the second set, and saved four break points. Herbert, ranked 140th in the world, was outclassed in the first set but played much better in the second before his serve was broken at 5-5. That was the opening world number 15 Anderson needed to close out the Frenchman.
Had Herbert won he would have been the first player since 1996 to win an ATP event after playing nine matches. The 24-year-old survived three rounds of qualifying just to make the main draw.
"I had an incredible week," said Herbert who will meet 23rd seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in the first round at the US Open.
"I came here to play some matches but I didn't expect to play that much. (Anderson) was better and more experienced today."