LONDON – South African Kevin Anderson will have to bring his A-game to centre court when he faces world No 1 Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the ATP Finals on Saturday.
By reaching this stage of the tournament, Anderson has become the first South African – even African – to reach the semi-finals, and Djokovic knows he will be up against a man in form.
This year, the Florida-based South African has rediscovered his mojo in the weeks after the US Open, winning the title in Vienna and becoming the first South African to qualify for this event on merit.
Wayne Ferreira finished ninth in 1995, and only played because Andre Agassi was injured.
“He’s playing amazing tennis,” says Anderson of Djokovic. “He’s established himself back at the top of the game, but that makes it a great opportunity for me.
“Obviously this match (against Roger Federer) was tough, but in my previous two, I played really good tennis, coming off a few weeks when I’ve been playing better and better.
“It’s nice that I have a day to let things resettle before I pick things up again for the semi-finals.”
The two men have played three times already this year. In the Wimbledon final, the South African was still recovering from his marathon semi-final against John Isner, and only in the third set did he get into the match.
In September, Anderson won at the Laver Cup, but it’s hard to know how much to read into results in that new team competition. And last month, Djokovic won in two tight sets in Shanghai.
Djokovic is playing so well that defeat for Anderson will be no embarrassment, and whatever the result, it has been his and South Africa’s best year in tennis for at least two decades.
Very cool to visit this iconic place in London 🎸 What’s your favourite Beatles song?? pic.twitter.com/b0UkGAdtaP— Kevin Anderson (@KAndersonATP) November 16, 2018
But it may not end on Saturday – if anyone has a game to beat the Serb, it could be Anderson, especially on this quickish, high-bouncing surface.
Anderson will have to serve magnificently at the O2 Arena in London and make plenty of returns, and even that might not be enough.
All the factors clearly favour Djokovic, but there’s no doubt Anderson has the weapons and the form to have at least an outside chance of an upset.
Djokovic has looked back to his best this week, but in Anderson, he faces an opponent who has discovered a consistency throughout the year that has hitherto evaded him.
* The match will take place at 10pm SA time on Saturday night.
African News Agency (ANA)