London | Djokovic very much in control
KEVIN Anderson seems on a Mission Impossible as he faces Novak Djokovic on Saturday night for the right to face either Roger Federer or Alexander Zverev in the decider for the Nitto ATP Finals title.
He's playing amazing tennis. Obviously he's really established himself back at the top of the game. Kevin Anderson
Djokovic started to rediscover his mojo by beating Anderson in the Wimbledon final in the summer. It was the Serb’s first Grand Slam since taking the French two years earlier.
He added his 14th major at the US Open and stormed back to world No.1.
And has underlined the point by surging through his group into the semi-finals without dropping a set for a fifth time, completing the feat by overcoming Croat Marin Cilic 7-6 6-2 at the 02 Friday night.
But South African Anderson, 32, is not running scared and aware of what he is up against.
He said: “I view it as a great, great opportunity. Will our Wimbledon final have any impact? A little bit, I guess.
“I probably look more closely to our indoors, the last couple matches, playing him. Played him at Laver Cup, obviously in Shanghai as well.
“He’s playing amazing tennis. Obviously he’s really established himself back at the top of the game.
“I lost to Roger (Federer in his final group match) and that was tough. Previous two matches I played really good tennis, coming off quite a few weeks where I’ve been playing better and better.
“Have had Friday to resettle. Really looking forward to coming back, picking things up again.”
Djokovic, 31, will not be underestimating the task.
He said: “Kevin is playing well, even though he lost to Roger. This has been his best season – been playing some big tennis – and he has maintained that through the tournament.
“He’s been very aggressive and is serving well. I know what to expect.”
Djokovic is desperate to add the end-of-season final crown to the prize haul he has collected in the second half of 2018.
It was clear from his dismantling of Cilic. Their match was a ‘dead rubber’ – as the tournament favourite was already guaranteed a last-four spot and his opponent knew he could not qualify – but the intensity displayed by Djokovic was as if the title was on the line.
His serve was close to flawless. He did not lose a point on his first serve throughout the opening set and dropped just five points on his serve in total.
Fifth seed Cilic tried to command the points from the baseline and was a tough nut to crack in the opening set. But Djokovic eventually left his big-hitting opponent impotent by forcing errors and breaking him twice while cruising through the second.
Cilic, who has also played Zverev, reckons Djokovic can get through his semi and lift the title for the first time in three years.
He said: “You have to say he’s playing the best at the moment. He’s in the best shape, winning so many matches, also against top-10 guys (unbeaten in 13) consistently, constantly playing great tennis. So definitely favorite, number one, to win here.
“All the matches here, as well, he played high quality. Also against me, even though for him this match didn’t matter.
“The other match, Zverev-Federer, it’s going to be good match. Zverev played good against John (Isner). He served great. Roger struggled a little bit in that first match. Played great last two matches.
“So, it’s going to be a tough battle, for sure. Obviously little bit of an edge on Federer’s side because he won few last matches. But it’s going to be entertaining.”
“I was not thinking of Davis Cup (Cilic is in Croatia team for next week’s final). I felt the tennis was quite quality first set (against Djokovic).
” Novak was serving really good. I was not finding, on one part, the rhythm on my returns, the other part Novak was very accurate with his serve. He was placing the serve really good.
“Second set, I still felt I played well. I just dropped in part a little bit with my serve. Novak connected few good points, got the break. He was much looser after that.”
On his own campaign, Cilic added: “It’s great to be here third year in a row, fourth year overall. I played well during the season. I had some ups and downs. I had a lot of great matches, great wins as well.”