ABU DHABI, December 29, 2017
World No. 14 Kevin Anderson edged past World number five Dominic Thiem of Austria in straight sets 7-6 (8-6), 6-4, to secure his place in Saturday’s final on day two of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship 10th Edition.
The South African will next play Roberto Bautista Agut in the Championship decider after the Spaniard received a walkover following Novak Djokovic’s withdrawal from the tournament.
In a highly entertaining semi-final in front of an excited crowd, Thiem broke Anderson in the third game of the opening set with an amazing crosscourt forehand winner to take the lead 2-1. However, the 6’8” Anderson broke right back in the next service game to tie it up at two each. The South African was under pressure in the ninth game at 30-40 but recovered in time to hold serve. The remainder of the set saw both players hold serve taking it to a tie-break and after a double-fault by Thiem at 6-7, Anderson took the opening set in 53 minutes.
The South African started out strongly in the second set as he broke Thiem’s serve in the first game and didn’t look back from there as he went on to win the match in 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Thiem, who has never beaten Anderson in six attempts, was playing in his first match of the season after he received a bye in the opening round. Commenting on his loss, he said, “I have to accept it and of course I would have preferred to win but still I felt good and had no pain. I was moving well. I am not really disappointed.”
The 26-year-old Austrian could take away some positives from his first competitive match of the new season.
“Not everything was bad today,” Thiem said. “It was a good match but it is always tough against him. There was actually only one bad game I played in the first game of the second set when I lost my serve.”
Thiem will next go to Doha, where he will be the top seed of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. “I will fly to Qatar on Sunday and I hope that I will get as many matches as possible.”
Bautista-Agut Wins One-Set-Exhibition Over Murray
The second semi-final was replaced by a one-set exhibition match between three-time Grand Slam winner, Andy Murray and MWTC finalist Roberto Bautista Agut as Novak Djokovic withdrew from the tournament after failing to recover fully from his elbow injury.
In what was a surprise for the fans, the British number one, took to the court for the first time since Wimbledon, giving his followers hope that he will be ready for the Australian Open.
Showing no visible signs of the hip injury that kept him out for much of the season, the two-time Olympic gold winner showed glimpses of his former self with some wonderful forehand winners. But his lack of match practice was evident as he was defeated down 2-6 by the debutant Spaniard.
Carreno Busta Finishes Fifth
In the day’s early match for the fifth and sixth place, young upcoming star Andrey Rublev showed exactly why he is so highly rated on the ATP Tour. The 20-year-old Russian beat his higher ranked opponent Spain’s world number 10 Pablo Carreño Busta in straight sets 6-4, 6-2.
The 26-year-old Spaniard, who lost the only previous meeting between the players, never really looked comfortable during the match which lasted just over an hour. However, Carreño Busta had no answers to the Russian’s aggressive strategy and a service break in the seventh game was enough for the Moscow-native to take the first set in 36 minutes.
It was more of the same from Rublev in the second set as he sent Carreño Busta scampering to all corners of the court with his powerful forehand shots. The 20-year-old Russian broke early in the second set and again in the fifth game to comfortably see out the set and match.
“I really enjoyed to be here. It was a good preparation to the season, checking your level and playing some proper matches,” Rublev was pleased.
Rublev replaced Milos Raonic, who withdrew from the tournament due to injury last week. “I only arrived here one day ahead of the tournament. So it was not easy to adapt to the new conditions. Under these circumstances I think I played two good matches.” The #NextGenATP star will open his season at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, followed by the ATP 250 event in Auckland and the Australian Open.
Women To Step Into Action On Sunday
Action on day three of the MWTC will begin at 2.30pm with an exhibition match between Dominic Thiem and Pablo Carreño Busta. Then at 5pm, the tournament will see, for the first time in its history, Women tennis players take to the court as 23-time Grand Slam Champion, Serena Williams makes her return to competitive action after nearly a year away from the game. She will face-off against current French Open Champion Jelena Ostapenko in what will be the first meeting between the two players.
Commenting ahead of her match against the 36-year-old US-American, Ostapenko said, “I have been following and watching her matches because she is such a great champion. I am just looking to enjoy the match and to playing against her. It is such a great opportunity. It’s good to have her back on the Tour and it will be great motivation for the other players.”
The Women’s match will be followed by the Championship final at 7pm.