Kevin Anderson: Back In A Big Way This Week In Vienna

WASHINGTON, October 31, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Kevin Anderson is a former Erste Bank Open champion, who captured the biggest title of his career at the ATP 500 event in Vienna two years ago as the World No. 8.

The 34-year-old South Africa native, who now lives in Gulf Stream, Fla., with his wife Kelsey and one-year-old daughter Keira, missed playing in the event last year following right knee surgery. So, technically, it can be said he’s defending his 2018 Vienna title this year. Regardless, Anderson is back in a big way this week, where he’s reached his first ATP Tour semifinal in 21 months.

Playing in his ninth ATP Tour event this season, Anderson began his Vienna week with 18 services aces in a come-from-behind three-set victory over Dennis Novak of Austria, in which he saved three match points during a third-set tiebreak. He followed it with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over World No. 15 Pablo Carreño Busta, in back of 14 service aces and a 90-percent success rate on points won on his first serve. It was Anderson’s first Top 20 win in nearly two years and Carreño Busta represented the highest-ranked player he’s beaten this year.

On Friday, the 111th-ranked Anderson brought an 8-8 win-loss record into his quarterfinal match against World No. 6 Daniil Medvedev, in his first ATP 500 quarterfinal since Vienna 2018 and his first quarterfinal at any ATP event since Miami 2019. Anderson played solidly from the baseline and within himself. His first serve skyrocketed to a high of 130 miles per hour and produced nine aces. With the match riding on the outcome of a second-set tiebreak, in his third match-point opportunity against the fourth-seeded Russian, Anderson won 6-4, 7-6 (5), in one hour and 29 minutes. An unforced backhand error by Medvedev sealed the victory for Anderson. It was his first Top 10 win since the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals and the victory ensures that Anderson will crack the Top 100 when the FedEx ATP Rankings are revised on Monday.

“I am very, very pleased,” said Anderson during an on-court interview after his quarterfinal victory. “I have waited a long time to play a match like this.

“It was very high quality and I knew I had to play very well against Daniil to get through.”

Anderson won 77 percent of his service points, saved the only break point he faced and dropped just 14 points on his serve. He outpointed Medvedev, who finished with 10 aces, 71-63. The South African’s third straight victory inside Wiener Stadthalle advanced him to Saturday’s semifinal round against No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia, who took out No. 2 seed Dominic Thiem of Austria, 7-6 (5), 6-2.

“I love playing here,” Anderson said. “I have good memories from playing a couple of years ago. I was very disappointed not to be able to come back last year, but I am happy to be back here playing great tennis and I am really looking forward to my match tomorrow.”

Anderson is making the most of his protected ranking of No. 14 this week in Vienna. Earlier this year, his ranking fell to No. 147 on January 6 – the lowest it’s been since No. 148 on January 2010. He underwent his second right knee surgery on February 19 and immediately withdrew from Acapulco. Thus, the ATP Tour’s five-month lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic couldn’t have happened at a better time for the 6-foot-8-inch (2.03 m), 208-pound (94 kg) Anderson. He convalesced during the hiatus and returned in time for resumption of the ATP Tour, at the Western & Southern Open and the US Open, both on hard courts in New York. Then, he headed off to play on clay in Rome, Hamburg and Paris. While his results leading up to Vienna were mixed – as his 3-5 win-loss record suggests – he’s making up for it all in Vienna.

Now that he’s healthy, it’s been a busy October for Anderson, between competing on the ATP Tour in Europe and being elected president of the ATP Tour Player Council. He received congratulations from many, including Hall of Fame great Billie Jean King, who tweeted: “It’s so important for players to have a voice and have input in the areas that impact the sport.”

Anderson also remains active in a variety of conservation activities in an effort to reduce the plastic pollution.

Things are definitely looking up these days for Kevin Anderson.

What will Sonego do for an encore?

So, just how big was 25-year-old Italian Lorenzo Sonego‘s 6-2, 6-1 quarterfinal victory over World No. 1 Novak Djokovic? Let us count the ways, courtesy of ATP Tour Media:

• It was Sonego’s biggest win of his career, which enabled him to reach his first ATP 500 level semifinal. He saved all six break points he faced in the match, all coming in the second set, while converting five of six break points. Coming into the match, the lucky loser was 0-3 in his career against Top 10 foes.

• The 42nd-ranked Sonego became the first Italian to defeat a World No. 1 since Fabio Fognini beat Andy Murray 6-2, 6-4 in the second round of the 2017 Italian Open.

• Sonego is the first lucky loser to defeat Djokovic in 13 tries and the first lucky loser to defeat a World No. 1 since Jordan Thompson beat Murray in the first round of the 2017 Queen’s Club.

“For sure, it’s the best victory of my life,” Sonego said during his on-court interview after beating Djokovic. “Novak is the best in the world. Today I played so, so good. It’s unbelievable. It’s amazing.”

Since entering the main draw as a lucky loser after losing in the final day of qualifying last weekend, Sonego has not lost a set in three victories, against Dusan Lajovic of Serbia, Hubert Hurkacz of Poland and Djokovic. He began the tournament ranked 42nd. His provisional, live ranking jumped to No. 33 after beating Djokovic. By reaching the semifinals, the Italian No. 3 Sonego is guaranteed 61,000 euros in prize money and 180 ATP Rankings points.

“I played the best match in my life,” Sonego said. “I’m so happy for this.”

Later, during his virtual press conference, Djokovic said: “Yes, clinching the No. 1 had an effect on me today. I’ve done what I came here for, securing the Number 1. And I move completely fine with today’s result. I’m healthy and looking forward to a strong finish in London.”

There’s more to the story behind Djokovic’s loss to Sonego

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