LONDON – Kevin Anderson made a confident start to his ATP Finals debut with a 6-3, 7-6 (10) victory over Dominic Thiem on Sunday.
Having qualified for the season-ending tournament for the first time, the 32-year-old Anderson produced a dominant serving display to take the first set at the O2 Arena, before saving two set points to come through a tense tiebreaker in the second.
In Sunday’s late match, 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer plays Kei Nishikori.
The fourth-seeded Anderson, who was runner-up at Wimbledon this year, was taken to deuce in his opening service game, but dropped only one more point on serve in the first set – and wasn’t punished for taking just one of seven break point opportunities on Thiem’s delivery.
Anderson’s groundstrokes were almost as impressive as his serve, particularly in the first set, and drew a series of errors from Thiem in the fourth game, which resulted in the crucial break.
Thiem was struggling for consistency as he made just 48 per cent of his first serves with 12 unforced errors, compared to just five winners.
The 25-year-old Austrian rallied in a far more competitive second set but couldn’t force a break point despite taking Anderson to deuce on two occasions.
Thiem was showing glimpses of the form that took him to the French Open final earlier this year, but his unforced errors continued to bail out Anderson and the set went to a tiebreaker.
A rare triumph for Thiem in a lengthy rally gave him the first mini-break and a 2-1 lead, but Anderson quickly hit back before the pair exchanged mini-breaks once more to leave the score at 5-5.
Both players raised their level as 10 consecutive points, which included three match points for Anderson and two set points for Thiem, went with serve.
Anderson, who saved a match point before knocking Federer out in the Wimbledon quarterfinals in July, once more displayed his ability to thrive under pressure.
Forced wide by Thiem, Anderson slapped a forehand winner up the line to bring up a first match point on his own serve at 11-10.
He didn’t waste it, hitting a 13th ace of the match to ensure that the sixth-seeded Thiem has now lost his opening round-robin match on all three of his appearances at the tournament.