Serving big, keeping his cool and holding his own against No. 3 Andy Murray in rallies, South African-turned-American-citizen Kevin Anderson pulled off a major upset Monday to advance to his first Slam quarterfinal.
The 6-foot-8 Anderson, who rocketed serves as fast as 137 mph and fired 25 aces, motored past Murray, 7-6, 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, in 4 hours, 18 minutes.
Anderson, 29, now plays another two-time Slam winner, Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland, who quashed the upset dreams of Donald Young on Labor Day.
After racing to a two-sets-to-none lead, Anderson, seeded 15th, surrendered the third set in a tiebreak. Murray appeared to grasp the momentum, but the stoic Anderson calmly continued to smack big serves, rally impressively with the Scot – who possesses one of the game’s best ground games – and attack the net to finish off points. Anderson won the final tiebreak by blitzing Murray, 7-0.
“I’m at a loss for words right now,” Anderson said on court after his surprise victory. “I just managed to keep my composure throughout, and honestly played probably one of the best matches of my life. Obviously to get through to the quarterfinals for the first time here in New York feels just amazing.”
The first set was toe-to-toe until the tiebreak, which Anderson snatched in spectacular fashion, blistering a 108-mph forehand that painted the line.
Anderson calmly jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the second set. He served for the set twice and finally won it on his fifth set point, hitting an ace down the middle and on the line to take a two-sets-to-none lead.
An agitated Murray dug in and sneaked off with the third set. The fourth set was neck-and-neck, but every time Murray threatened to break, Anderson held his nerve and his serve.
“I think I served very well, which obviously helped me a lot in the fourth set, especially serving first and being up each game,” Anderson said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better tiebreak. I wish I could play every tiebreak like that.”
WHAT IT MEANS: At the age of 29, Anderson is suddenly playing the best tennis of his life and he is now up to a career-high ranking of No. 14. Coming into the match, the lanky, late-maturing Anderson had only won one match against Murray in six tries, and he had lost four of their last five meetings.
Anderson is known for having one of the biggest serves on tour, but on Monday he was able to hold his own against the Murray ground game, too, as the South African played an extremely focused and contained match.
Murray was seeking his second US Open crown, and while he appeared to be playing well coming into the Open – defeating No. 1 Novak Djokovic to win in Montreal – he also had played the most matches on tour this year, which may have taken a toll by the time he reached the year’s final major.