Kevin Anderson has played the match of his life to roar back from a two set to nil deficit to oust the 8-time defending Wimbledon champion and number 1 seed Roger Federer on Wednesday’s men’s quarterfinal’s day. Played out on court no.1, Federer was unable to survive the unslaught of Anderson’s barrage of serves and forehands. Anderson prevailed in a classic thriller that lasted for 4 hours and 14 minutes: 2-6, 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-4, 13-11.
Coming into the their quarterfinal meeting the defending champion both had yet to lose a set this tournament and lose a set against the South-African hard-hitter in Anderson. Their head 2 head record read a demoralizing 4-0 deficit for the number 14 seed, with all matches played at Masters level. Today though, all those statistics went out the window.
The opening game spelled disaster right from the start. Facing three breakpoints, Kevin managed to save one but he was unable to defend the ball back in play on the second. Federer then raced to a hold to love to make it 2-0. Anderson, who is known for his devastating serving, showed his class to clinch the third game.
As patterns of play were unfolding it became fast clear Anderson did not have anything in his locker to threaten the number 1 seed. A second break and easy hold later and the champion had raced away to a 6-2 first set. Kevin Anderson was getting outplayed and he needed some diversity in his game just to be able to rally with Federer.
The beginning of the second set, however, was a mirror image of the first. Federer, who had only faced three break points all tournament and not suffered a single break of serve, all of a sudden was on the receiving end of an unslaught of blistering returns. Anderson broke Federer to set the score board to 2-0 in his favour. The confidence boost was maximized with a hold to love to make it 3-0.
An emphatic hold to love steadied the ship for Federer. His backhand down the line was working exceptionally well and he put pressure right back on the Anderson serve. And Anderson felt it. A double fault and a miraculous running backhand lob from the champion added up multiple break points. Federer capitalized on the third when Anderson netted a simple forehand from the middle of the court.
Federer, wearing his brand new Uniqlo gear, was threatened on his own serve in the game that followed. A huge “Chum Jetze!” (“Come on!” in Swiss-German) from the 8-time defending champion howled through court no.1 when Anderson’s attempted winner down the line found the net. Federer survived the scare but Anderson was finding his range, especially on his forehand side. A hold to love later, sealed with a booming cross court backhand, and Federer again was trailing 3-4 in the second set.
Both men were enjoying great rhythm on serve at this juncture of the match. Service holds to love were aplenty. Federer though, was not at his free-flowing best. Apart from the serve, which was working like a charm, errors crept into his game that gave Anderson the belief he needed being a set down. Federer recuperated at 5-6 from 0-30 down with four consecutive points to send the second set into a tiebreak.
Federer lost the first point on his own serve but soon would wrestle back two mini-breaks to lead 3-2. A beautiful backhand down the line must have felt like an ominous sign for the 2017 US Open runner-up. Another mini-break sealed with a wonderful forehand down the line and Federer was serving at 6-3. But then, the champion made two uncharacteristic forehand errors in succession. Still holding one set point at 6-5 up it was now Anderson serving to try and level the breaker. Federer, though, was never going to make three forehand errors in a row and sealed the second set with a running forehand hooked shot that was too powerful for Anderson to handle: 7-6(7-5).
As Anderson had to deal with the big disappointment of losing the second set he made sure his service was hitting the lines early in the third. Both players protected their own service games well. As the score line read 4-3 in favour of Federer, Anderson knew any mistake now would be fatal. He held to 30, and although the 14th ranked player pulled off a superb running cross court backhand passing, Federer would do the same to lead 5-4. Federer could smell victory.
And close to victory he would come in the next game. Anderson kept his cool while staring down match point as Federer’s backhand pass sailed well wide. Tensions rose. Anderson would get his first break points of the third set. The first was saved by Federer with a circus rally that saw Federer play a forehand drop shot out of nowhere that sat up for Anderson. He inexplicably missed. On the second time of asking Anderson’s boomed down a service return winner that got him the break. Anderson suddenly was looking to serve out the third set at 6-5.
Federer wouldn’t be Federer if he upped his game in the next. Some strong forehands flowing from the racquet of Federer got Anderson in trouble. Being down 0-40 Anderson saved two break points with some heavy forehands of his own. Anderson would also survive the third break point as Federer, in charge of the rally, netted a forehand to get proceedins back to deuce. Another forehand error and Anderson had his first set point. A fistpump from the South-African as he thundered down the ace to send the match into overtime: 7-5.
The fourth set would see the turnaround completed. Federer got broken in the seventh game. Anderson’s returns were hurting Federer left and right. At 5-4, while serving for the set, Anderson had a little hiccup as a wondrous drop shot return from Federer set up a sumptuous pass. The break back was not to be. Anderson held firm and served it out to level the set: 6-4.
The fifth set proved to be a nailbiter. With no tiebreak yet to be played, proceedings could go down the wire. And that’s exactly what happened. At 3-4 40-0 with Anderson serving, Federer pegged his opponent back to even draw a break point. but it would be to no avail. Anderson went on to hold and both men went through their service games without having to endure any break points for the coming games.
The two players were passed the tiebreak mark and at 10-9 Anderson had the difficult task to even the score for the tenth time in the set that already spanned over 1 hour and 12 minutes. He loosened up his wrist to power down a cross court forehand in the open court that sealed a love game. Anderson overcame every test Federer threw at him and then some. A true thriller was born.
In the 23rd game disaster struck. Federer got broken to 30 when Federer netted another forehand. Anderson drew a fistpump and prepared himself mentally to serve out the match. He overcame his nerves after losing the first point. Some terrific forehands, an ace out wide and another service winner sealed the comeback of the tournament, the upset of the tournament.
After four hours and 14 minutes of scintillating play Anderson had done the impossible. He beat the 8-time defending champion in a thriller for the ages.
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