CAPE TOWN – Kevin Anderson has beaten a top-10 player in Dominic Thiem at the Citi Open in Washington.
After saving a match point in the third set, Anderson got the win 6-3 6-7(8) 7-6(7) in just under three hours yesterday.
Anderson missed a chance in the second set to convert a match point and in the third set, he swerved close to the precipice.
Anderson capitalised on a backhand error to level out the third set tie-breaker at 6-6, and set up his first match point with a thundering forehand, but the No 1 seed Thiem sent a quick reply by delivering an ace, despite not feeling his serve well on the day.
Anderson managed to get the mini-break in the next point before he closed out the match.
The South African star has never lost to the young gun, and this marks his sixth win against the Austrian 23-year-old.
Almost every match between the two has been a close encounter and this victory will be sweeter. Since their last meeting in 2015, Thiem has made his name known, as he has won against Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
Anderson acknowledged the changes over the last 18 months. “I was able to play him before he made the huge leap that he has. It felt like a bit of a new match today,” he said. “Just (Thiem’s) mentality, having beaten some of the best guys, is where he has improved the most.”
Anderson has bounced back after injury, and he continues to claw back up the rankings, and this win shows that he has the level to compete with the world’s best. Despite some shaky serving from both players, the South African 31-year-old giant served up 19 aces despite some double faults, and was more comfortable than his opponent on his native surface.
In his post-match interview, Thiem said: “I don't like to play big servers in general. What can I do? The draw was not great with him in the second round. It’s one of those bad losses. It can’t go my way all the time. It isn’t easy to make this change (to hardcourt) after a long break.”
Next, Anderson will face Yuki Bhambri, and while it might seem like an easy match, the Indian was ITF junior No 1 and was ranked 88th, but he has struggled with his share of injuries and ups and downs on the ATP Tour.
Bhambri has come through qualifying, and he has spent lots of hours on court. He ousted the defending champion Gael Monfils 6-3 4-6 7-5 in the round of 32 and beat Guido Pella for his fifth win this week in order to reach the quarter-finals.
Anderson is aware that it is both an opportunity and a challenge.
“I’ve practised with him before, but that was a few years ago. He comes in and attacks. It’s a challenge. If I’m taking care of business on my side of the ball, then I give myself the best chance.”