Kevin Anderson booked his place at the Nitto ATP Finals in London next month for the first time on Sunday, defeating Kei Nishikori 6-3, 7-6(3) to win the biggest title of his career at the ATP Erste Bank Open 500 in the Austrian capital, Vienna.
The South African, who improved to 44-16 this year, won 91 per cent of first-serve points (39/43) and saved both break points he faced to lift the trophy. Anderson joins Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Juan Martin del Potro and Alexander Zverev as players to have qualified for the season-ending event, held at The 02 in London from 11-18 November.
“It’s fantastic. It’s been a huge goal of mine all year,” said Anderson. “I felt I came pretty close the two previous seasons, but I missed out on it. I think it’s one of our biggest tournaments of the year, really celebrates the Top 8 players of the year. You have to win a lot of big matches against the best opponents in the world to book your spot there, so it’s fantastic to be amongst the best eight players in the world.
“And just London, the event itself, I’ve heard so much about it – a great arena, a great atmosphere – and to do it by winning my first 500 here in Vienna, as well, is a great combination.”
Appearing in his fifth tour-level final of the season, Anderson captured his second trophy of the year after one hour and 55 minutes. The 32-year-old, who also defeated Nishikori en route to winning the inaugural New York Open in February, improved to 3-4 in his ATP Head2Head series against the Japanese star.
The ATP World Tour 500 trophy marks the biggest title run of Anderson’s career. Each of the World No. 8’s previous trophy wins – in Johannesburg, Delray Beach, Winston-Salem and New York – came at ATP World Tour 250-level events.
“It means a lot [to win my first ATP World Tour 500 title]. It has been a long time coming… any time you make a final, you want to put the history behind you and it was always going to be a tough match,” said Anderson. “I was up against an unbelievable opponent in Kei and I really had to play some amazing tennis. I couldn’t be more pleased to have kept at it and finally broken through at this level.”
Anderson, after multiple errors on his backhand side when serving for the set, kept faith in the groundstroke and soon converted his third set point with another driven backhand to force an error from his opponent.
A tense second set required a tie-break to split the two finalists, with Anderson finding his best level on his serve and forehand side. The 32-year-old needed just one championship point to claim victory, landing his 13th ace of the match.
Anderson receives 500 ATP Ranking points and collects €473,865 in prize money for winning the tournament. Nishikori gains 300 ATP Ranking points and receives €232,315.