Defending champion Roger Federer reeled off four consecutive straight-sets wins at 2018 Wimbledon before facing Kevin Anderson for a place in his 12th semifinal at the tournament. But one point away from another straight-sets win, Federer blinked - allowing Anderson to claw his way back and eventually register a stunning upset.
Roger Federer had made a characteristically brisk start in the match. Having not dropped a set in four previous meetings against Anderson, Federer took the opener for the loss of just two games. And in a competitive second set, he retrieved a break before taking the tiebreak and with it a commanding two-set advantage. But that was as good as it got for Roger Federer on the day.
Talking about that match in an ATP Radio podcast, Kevin Anderson recalled being slow off the blocks as Roger Federer clinched the opening two sets.
"The match started really poorly for me," Anderson said. "I remember going out into the court and I kind of like messed up in terms of getting ready before the match. I remembered all of a sudden we had a walkout time and I was not ready to walk out to the court at all."
"Playing Roger at Wimbledon, you don't have too much flexibility. I remember being quite fragile taking the court and playing somebody like Roger who starts off matches so well. I felt like I was really out of sorts in the first set," he added.
Anderson then described how he got into his groove in the second set but was still bogged down by nerves and the thought of playing Roger Federer at Wimbledon.
"Even at the end of the second set, I was just quite pleased that I had settled down and I was at least giving myself the chance to compete. At that stage, I played better a few times but the nerves and just playing him just got the better of me," Anderson went on.
Continuing his ascendancy in the match, Roger Federer he eked out a match point at 5-4 up on the Anderson serve. Talking about that moment, Anderson said that a straight-sets defeat was a very real possibility for him, and that he was prepared to go away while taking some positives from the match.
"I never felt like I had given myself a fresh shot against playing him. As the third set went on, I remember having the thought that even if I lost that match in straight sets, I thought there were some big improvements from me. Be out there, feel comfortable," he admitted.
I felt a bit nervous but fought well to beat Roger Federer: Kevin Anderson
Anderson explained his point-by-point mentality when that match point for Roger Federer came about in the 10th game of the third set. The South African said that his only objective at that moment was to not lose that point.
"When the match point (for him) came along, my real thought was saving that point," Anderson reminisced. "Didn't really think too much of it and keep trying my hardest every single point. Slowly I could find a way back into the match. Obviously, I did a very good job of keeping focus and staying relaxed, keeping up the belief in myself."
An emboldened Anderson rushed the net on that crucial point and forced Federer into a backhand error. Moments later, he had held serve.
The big-serving South African then broke Roger Federer in the next game but found himself in trouble at 0-40 down while serving for the set. That was when he brought out his best clutch tennis, winning five points on the trot to halve the Swiss' lead.
Roger Federer dropped serve in the seventh game of the fourth, and that was all Anderson needed to force a decider - something that didn't look even remotely possible an hour earlier.
Riding on his momentum, Anderson stayed strong on serve, saving break points at 3-4 and 5-6 in the fifth. Four Federer errors at 11-11 then provided the South African an opportunity to serve out the win.
Despite the nerves, Anderson produced a hold to 15 to reach his second Grand Slam semifinal and hand Roger Federer his first quarterfinal loss at Wimbledon in seven years.
"As things went on in the fifth, it became very apparent that it was anybody's match," Anderson said. "Obviously, it was great to finally get the break. And then I felt pretty confident going out there, definitely felt a bit nervous, but I played a good game and fought well to get the win."
Kevin Anderson then proceeded to upend first-time Grand Slam semifinalist John Isner in another five-set tussle, to reach his second Major final. He eventually went down to Rafael Nadal's conqueror Novak Djokovic in straight sets.Published 13 Jul 2020, 21:53 IST