Read & Watch: Anderson Battles Through In Tokyo... Again
South African star will next challenge Gasquet
For the second day in a row, No. 2 seed Kevin Anderson was pushed the distance at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2018. But a day after coming from a set down against Aussie Matthew Ebden, the South African once again overcame the challenge on Thursday, defeating #NextGenATP American Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals.
"Generally I did a great job being able to reset and I was able to do that towards the end of the second set," Anderson said. "I think that's really what put me in a great position to play a very good third set."
Anderson continues to push for his first trip to the Nitto ATP Finals. After Juan Martin del Potro booked his spot on Wednesday in Beijing, there are only four spots remaining, with Anderson beginning the week at No. 8 in the ATP Race To London. Kei Nishikori, who is 10th in the Race (885 points back), reached the Tokyo quarter-finals on Wednesday.
Perhaps the indoor venue, the Musushino Forest Sport Plaza, could be the site of another title-run for Anderson, who claimed his first tour-level crown in two and a half years this February, triumphing at the New York Open, also staged on an indoor hard court.
Thanks to his two-hour, eight-minute victory against Tiafoe, Anderson is now 17-7 in deciding sets this season. The 32-year-old has also won the first three meetings of his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against the American, with all of those matches coming in 2018.
"From a physical standpoint I feel very strong. I know that physically I'm going to last through the match, so that's always a big plus," Anderson said. "And just a continued focus on what I'm trying to do as much as possible. I feel if I do that I'm going to give my best chance and by doing that I've had a pretty good record in three sets. I would have liked to win some of those matches in two sets, but I definitely have the mindset that whatever it takes, I'm going to keep going, keep focusing on what I'm doing, whether it's an hour, two hours, three hours, whatever it takes."
It seemed Anderson had a chance to grasp complete control of the clash early in the second set. After saving a break point in his first service game of the set with an ace, and then holding with two more aces, he earned three break points in the next game. But Tiafoe clawed his way through the 20-point game and would eventually claim the only break of the set to force a decider.
But Anderson was too strong in the third set, winning 50 per cent of return points to move through to the last eight, where he will face No. 8 seed Richard Gasquet, who withstood an onslaught of 22 aces to oust Aussie Nick Kyrgios 7-6(4), 7-6(1).
"I knew he has one of the best serves in the world so I needed to have a lot of concentration on my return, even on my serve. I didn't do bad mistakes, so that's why I was able to win that match," Gasquet said. "Mentally I was tough. I played well, I returned well, I put a lot of balls inside the court and that's what made the difference, especially in the tie-break."
Gasquet leads Anderson 6-4 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. The Frenchman, who lifted the trophy at this year's Libema Open, is into his seventh tour-level quarter-final of the year.
"[He's] a very experienced player. One of the best backhands in the game. He's always a tough opponent," Anderson said. "The key is to not allow him to settle too much. He plays great defence and just watching the match, he's serving very well, too. It's always tough."