World number 14 Kevin Anderson overcame Austrian world number five Dominic Thiem in straight sets 7-6 (8-6), 6-4, to secure his place in tomorrow’s final on day two of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship 10th Edition.
The South African will next play Roberto Bautista Agut at 7pm in the Championship decider after the Spaniard received a walkover following Novak Djokovic’s withdrawal from the tournament.
In a highly entertaining semi-final in front of an excited crowd, Thiem broke Anderson in the third game of the opening set with an amazing crosscourt forehand winner to take the lead 2-1. However, the 6’8” Anderson broke right back in the next service game to tie it up at two each. The South African was under pressure in the ninth game at 30-40 but recovered in time to hold serve. The remainder of the set saw both players hold serve taking it to a tie-break and after a double-fault by Thiem at 6-7, Anderson took the opening set in 53 minutes.
The South African started out strongly in the second set as he broke Thiem’s serve in the first game and didn’t look back from there as he went on to win the match in 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Thiem, who has never beaten Anderson in six attempts, was playing in his first match of the season after he received a bye in the opening round. Commenting on his loss, he said, “I have to accept it and of course I would have preferred to win but still I felt good and had no pain. I was moving well. I am not really disappointed.”
The second semi-final was replaced by a one-set exhibition match between three-time Grand Slam winner, Andy Murray and MWTC finalist Roberto Bautista Agut as Novak Djokovic withdrew from the tournament after failing to recover fully from his elbow injury.
In what was a surprise for the fans, the British number one, took to the court for the first time since Wimbledon, giving his followers hope that he will be ready for the Australian Open.
Showing no visible signs of the hip injury that kept him out for much of the season, the two-time Olympic gold winner showed glimpses of his former self with some wonderful forehand winners. But his lack of match practice was evident as he was defeated down 2-6 by the debutant Spaniard.
In the day’s early match for the fifth and sixth place, young upcoming star Andrey Rublev showed exactly why he is so highly rated on the ATP Tour. The 20-year-old Russian beat his higher ranked opponent Spain’s world number 10 Pablo Carreño Busta in straight sets 6-4, 6-2.
Pablo, who lost the only previous meeting between the players, never really looked comfortable during the match which lasted just over an hour. However, Carreño Busta had no answers to the Russian’s aggressive strategy and a service break in the seventh game was enough for the Moscow-native to take the first set in 36 minutes.
It was more of the same from Rublev in the second set as he sent Carreño Busta scampering to all corners of the court with his powerful forehand shots. The Russian broke early in the second set and again in the fifth game to comfortably see out the set and match.
Following his win, Rublev said, “I really enjoyed being here. It is a really good event to prepare for the season with all these top players before the season starts. I’m really happy to be here. I think I wasn’t playing too bad in these conditions. I arrived just a day before my first match so had very little time to adapt. I think I was playing quite well in these two matches so I’m hoping to have a good start to the season.”
Action on day three of the MWTC will begin at 2.30pm with an exhibition match between Dominic Thiem and Pablo Carreño Busta. Then at 5pm, the tournament will see, for the first time in its history, Women tennis players take to the court as 23-time Grand Slam Champion, Serena Williams makes her return to competitive action after nearly a year away from the game. She will face-off against current French Open Champion Jelena Ostapenko in what will be the first meeting between the two players.
Commenting ahead of her match against the 36-year-old American, Ostapenko said, “I have been following and watching her matches because she is such a great champion. I am just looking to enjoy the match and to playing against her. It is such a great opportunity. It’s good to have her back on the Tour and it will be great motivation for the other players.”
The Women’s match will be followed by the Championship final at 7pm.