Meeting for the third time in as many tournaments, Kevin Anderson dominated Kei Nishikori to defeat him for the second time in less than three weeks at the ATP Finals on Tuesday.
In a repeat of the Erste Bank Open 500 final in Vienna, which Anderson also won in straight sets, the South African raced past Nishikori 6-0, 6-1 to improve to 2-0 in Group Lleyton Hewitt. Anderson landed 10 aces and won 82% of first-serve points to move past Nishikori in just 64 minutes.
‘The match was among the best I’ve played,’ said Anderson. ‘I think I did a really good job constantly applying the pressure and not letting up … I kept at it the whole time. I just felt I returned really well, made him hit a lot of shots off his serve.’
Anderson raced into a one-set lead after just 31 minutes, combining powerful serving with aggression on his return to leave Nishikori behind. The Vienna champion took advantage of Nishikori’s low first-serve percentage (47%), striking short balls to take time away from his opponent and extract errors.
The 32-year-old wasted no time increasing his advantage in the second set, taking the initiative and standing tall at the baseline to pressure Nishikori. Anderson was just one game away from joining Federer as the only man to win a match at the ATP Finals 6-0, 6-0, but Nishikori won his only game with an exquisite backhand drop shot winner. But Anderson confirmed victory in the following game after Nishikori fired long on his forehand return.
Anderson will become the first South African player to qualify for the semi-finals at the elite eight-man event if Dominic Thiem beats Federer, or the Swiss defeats Thiem in three sets, on Tuesday night.
‘I worked really hard as a kid. It is not easy. It is far from the tennis world, the tennis scene growing up in South Africa,’ said Anderson. ‘Here I am having achieved a lot of my dreams. Hopefully, I’m a source of inspiration for kids growing up in South Africa to pick up a tennis racquet.’