The best year in Kevin Anderson’s tennis career, and one of the best for South African tennis, came to an end in London tonight when the world No 1 Novak Djokovic knocked Anderson emphatically out of the Nitto ATP Finals.
Anderson, the first South African to reach the singles semi-finals of the eight-man year-ending event, ran into the roller coaster that Djokovic has become in recent months, the Serb winning 6-2 6-2 in 75 minutes.
Knowing he had to play to his limit simply to have a chance, Anderson failed to serve well at the start and fell under Djokovic’s spell from the very first game.
He was lucky to save a break point when Djokovic netted a backhand, but four points later dropped serve to set the tone of the match.
The big serve that forms the backbone of Anderson’s game was simply not firing, and he landed less than half his serves in court in the first set.
That had a knock-on effect on his back-court game, and with Djokovic gliding seemingly effortlessly around the court and finding the lines and corners at will, Anderson was playing the human equivalent of a brick wall.
Anderson picked up his serving level in the second set, but Djokovic was reading the game so well it barely seemed to matter whether he was returning a first or second serve.
He broke the South African to love in the opening game of the second set, and doubled his advantage in the fifth game.
Anderson did well to hold twice in the second set, having to go to deuce on each occasion.
Despite the defeat, Anderson will finish the year sixth in the rankings, the highest-ever year-end finish for a South African man since computer rankings began in 1973.
He won the titles in New York (indoor) and Vienna, reached the Wimbledon final, and competed in the longest Grand Slam semi-final in history, in which he beat John Isner 26-24 final set at Wimbledon.
He has also become a vice-president of the ATP Player Council, the professional players’ trade association..