JOHANNESBURG – It will come as cold comfort to Kevin Anderson that his vanquisher Dominic Thiem played one his “best matches ever,” to knock him out of this year’s US Open, denying him another crack at Rafael Nadal in New York.
Anderson is likely to lose his top five ranking when the new lists are released next week having failed to defend the points he earned from last year’s extraordinary run to the final at Flushing Meadows. This year Anderson lost in the fourth round, not a bad outcome for the 32 year old, but given the level he’s been playing at in 2018, a disappointing end to his Grand Slam season.
Thiem, the ninth seeded Austrian will face Nadal in the quarter-final on Tuesday, a repeat of this year’s French Open final which the Spanish legend won comfortably.
The tough draw Anderson faced at this year’s US Open was always likely to catch him out ahead of the potential last eight meeting with Nadal. He was taken to five sets in the first round by American Ryan Harrison - a talented player who has under-performed for much of his career, and had a point to prove against a top five player.
Anderson, having struggled with cramp against Harrison, had an easier straight sets win in the second round against Jeremy Chardy of France. Thereafter he was engaged in a thrilling five sets win over one of the sport’s rising stars Denis Shapovalov.
Anderson needed just under four hours to beat the Canadian, a taxing affair both mentally and physically, which despite his now renowned fitness levels was always going to have some kind of ‘carry over’ against a player like Thiem, who is one of the better defensive players in the world.
In addition the Austrian found the slower conditions of the new Louis Armstrong Stadium much to his liking, reminiscent he said afterwards of clay, which is his favourite surface. “The court, I think, made a big difference. It's a huge court. I could go very far back like I do on clay usually.
So there were some good advantages for me today.” Thiem. “I played him three years ago on Court 17, which didn't allow me to go that far back. It helped me a lot.”
As a result Thiem was able to nullify one of Anderson’s biggest weapons, his serve, creating nine break-point opportunities and converting three of those. In contrast Anderson, didn’t create a single break point.
“(There’s) obviously still a lot of very big tournaments for us throughout the rest of the year. Still a lot of tennis to be played, a lot to play for,” said Anderson. He is likely to take a short break before tackling the Far East Asia section of the ATP calendar next month, which includes big events in China and Japan, and concludes with the Shanghai Masters tournament, a prestigious Tier 1 event, with 1000 ranking points up for grabs.
Thereafter there is a swing through the indoor circuit in Europe that includes the Paris Masters, with the year-end ATP World Tour Finals - open to the top eight players on the ATP’s 2018 ranking list - scheduled to start in London on November 11.
Anderson is in a tight race with the likes of Thiem, John Isner, Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic for one of those top eight spots. Unfortunately for him all of them are still in contention at the US Open, meaning they’ll be picking up more ranking points than him.
That will put a lot of pressure on him to perform well in Asia and Europe later this year.
* Despite his earlier than hoped for exit at Flushing Meadows, it’s still been a very good year for Anderson. He’s won an event and his record in the Grand Slams is good; he lost in a tight first round match in Australia, made the fourth round at Roland Garros, the final at Wimbledon and the last 16 at the US Open.
* Anderson has earned over $3-million dollars this year (he picked over $250 000 for making it to the fourth round at the US Open) and still has at least five tournaments on his schedule before the year ends. If he is able to make it to the ATP Finals in London, his earnings for 2018 could top $5-million.
* Anderson is currently ranked 7, on the ‘Road to London’ rankings which totals all the points won in the calendar year, and after the Paris Masters at the start of November, the top eight players will play the ATP Finals. Unfortunately for Anderson all the players in close contention for top eight spots who are currently ranked around him, are still in contention in New York.
* Overall the US Open was not a great tournament for South Africa. Anderson’s exit comes on the back of a first round defeat for Lloyd Harris, who came through a pre-tournament qualifier, while doubles specialist Raven Klaasen and his partner Michael Venus lost in the second round. Philip Henning did win his first round match in the junior event though. Kgothatso Montjane lost in the quarter-finals of the womens wheelchair tournament.
* As of Monday, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal remained favourites to win the mens tournament. Serena Williams had taken over as the womens favourite after she reached the quarterfinals of the US Open for the 15th time.