LONDON (Reuters) - South African Kevin Anderson raised the bar at the ATP Finals with a 6-0 6-1 drubbing of Kei Nishikori he described as one of the best performances of his career on Tuesday.
There is nothing flashy about the 32-year-old but after winning his first four sets at the O2 Arena with exemplary tennis it would be a mistake to rule him out of claiming the title at the first time of asking.
Nishikori is the world number nine and on Sunday beat six-times champion Roger Federer in straight sets.
Yet he was comprehensively outplayed by the six-foot-eight-inch Anderson, who came within one game of equalling Federer’s 6-0 6-0 thrashing of Gaston Gaudio in 2005 — still the only ‘double bagel’ in the 48-year history of the tournament.
“Amongst the best I’ve played,” Anderson told reporters when asked to rate his 64-minute masterclass.
“Getting off to a really good start. I think I did a really good job constantly applying the pressure and not letting up.
“Today, I kept at it the whole time. I just felt I returned really well, made him hit a lot of shots off his serve.”
Even when a set and 3-0 to the good, however, Anderson said he never relaxed.
“Sometimes it’s tough if you have a very dominating set, you often see scorelines that momentum can change,” he said.
“Even going up 3-0 in the second set, hypothetically he holds and then gets a break. It almost works against you some ways if you have a really good lead.
“I felt I did a fantastic job throughout really. Even though I had a lead, I felt a sense of urgency throughout which I thought was really important because I wanted to get that win.”
Anderson served down 10 aces during his victory, winning the first 11 games before Nishikori got on the scoreboard.
He said afterwards that for each ace he served he would donate $100 to the Los Angeles Fire Department currently battling deadly blazes in California in which 42 people have lost their lives and many are missing.
“It’s been something close to my heart,” Florida-based Anderson, whose coach Brad Stine lives close to the affected areas, said. “There’s been a lot of people affected so we wanted to make a small difference.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis