September 8, 2015
Kevin Anderson played the match of his life to defeat Andy Murray 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (7-0) at the US Open – and now he faces Stan Wawrinka in his first ever Grand Slam quarter-final.
Just when it seemed the Scot had regained the momentum in an absorbing match that lasted more than four hours, he crumbled in the decisive tie-break. Murray couldn’t even manage to win a point when it really mattered, losing the breaker in surprisingly obliging style.
Suddenly it was all over and the world number three’s bid for his second US Open title was in tatters. He could blame a lingering cold and the cumulative effect of some tough early rounds, but in truth Anderson was outstanding in all areas.
At 6ft 8 inches tall, the quiet South African is known for his big serve. He took the first two sets off Novak Djokovic at the same stage at Wimbledon. But against Murray, there was a superb subtlety to go with his power, an accuracy in all areas including his volleying, and above all a sustained courage, confidence and stamina we hadn’t seen from him before in a really big match.
After seven failed attempts to reach the quarter-final stage of a Slam, 29-year-old Anderson was finally there. ‘I was trying to keep my composure and I honestly played the best match of my life and the best breaker,’ he admitted afterwards. ‘It feels amazing to reach the quarter-finals in New York.’
But no one plays so well without being allowed to do so. Murray couldn’t find the aggression that had finally downed Djokovic just a few weeks earlier. Gone was his composure too, as the histrionics returned to damage his chances. And that second serve looked familiarly fragile at times as well. It was all too passive from the favourite. He seemed to think craft alone would see him through. But that wasn’t the case.
Murray’s search for a first Grand Slam since winning Wimbledon in 2013 goes on. But the quarter-final between Anderson and Wawrinka, who defeated Donald Young 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, promises to be a cracker.
After some bad-tempered exchanges against American Young, Wawrinka won back the crowd by addressing a boy who had asked for and received the Swiss star’s broken racquet. As if apologising for his temper tantrum, Stan the Man admitted, ‘It’s not very nice to have a broken racquet so come and see me afterwards and I will give you one you can enjoy playing with.’
Both Anderson and Wawrinka must now be considered genuine contenders for the title. If Marin Cilic could win here last year, there’s no reason why Anderson can’t pull off a similar surprise this year.
But there’s something impressive about Wawrinka too. Having only lost a set so far, he is creeping in under the radar and looking for his third Grand Slam title. If he is successful, he will only require Wimbledon to complete a Career Slam.
Meanwhile it wasn’t the Brits’ night at Flushing Meadows, because Jo Konta went down 5-7, 3-6 to Pettra Kvitova. It had been an amazing journey for Konta, until her serve let her down at the key moment. But she can take plenty of confidence from the 16-match unbeaten run that saw her rise through the ranks like a breath of fresh air. And at 24 there will be plenty left in the tank.
As for Murray, he had already said that defeat would have its advantages. ‘Obviously if I was to lose the next match I’d have more time to prepare for the Davis Cup, which is a big priority between now and the end of the year.’
But Glasgow won’t feel like too much of a consolation for Murray right now, as he prepares to leave New York having under-performed in the Big Apple when it came to the crunch.