Red Alert: Anderson takes out Djokovic
Kevin Anderson caused the biggest surprise so far at Laver Cup 2018 as he upset Wimbledon and US Open champion Novak Djokovic to reignite Team World’s hopes in Chicago.
The South African made amends for defeat by Djokovic in last month’s Wimbledon final with a 7-6(5) 5-7 10-6 victory that left Team Europe 7-3 in front with one more match to play on Saturday.
If Jack Sock and Nick Kyrgios overcome David Goffin and Grigor Dimitrov in the doubles, a six-point deficit earlier in the day will have been cut to two points.
Sock and Kyrgios were at the forefront of the Team World cheer squad, backed by the majority of the crowd, as Anderson repeatedly served his way out of danger against the best returner in the game.
It had been 10 years since he scored his only win in seven attempts against a man who has gone on to win 14 Grand Slam singles titles.
It’s not easy playing one of the best players of all time, but what an amazing atmosphere – Kevin Anderson
The United Center felt like a home court for the man from Johannesburg, his two-and-a-half years at the University of Illinois making him a local favorite.
“We’ve had some really close matches haven’t gone our way and I really wanted to put us back in there,” said Anderson.
“It’s not easy playing one of the best players of all time, but what an amazing atmosphere.
“It’s just fantastic, for so many reasons. I felt I played a great match – beating Novak on any stage is great and here in Chicago makes it extra special.”
After early breaks of serve were exchanged the match came alive in the first set tiebreaker, Anderson sneaking it when Djokovic surprisingly double faulted on the first set point.
The world No.3 set about rectifying matters early in the second but break points came and went as Anderson repeatedly found big serves at crucial moments, drawing a rueful smile from Djokovic at one point.
As the set progressed, so the crowd grew more vocal, although if Djokovic was not feeling the love he soon received a huge jolt of encouragement following a breathtaking winner from close to the net – the Serb wheeled away and punched the air, prompting a huge Chicago roar in response.
Once again there was growing excitement on the team benches, with Sock and Kyrgios leading the World support while Federer and alternate Jeremy Chardy were similarly excitable in the European corner.
It was Djokovic who made the breakthrough, his relentless accuracy finally cracking the Anderson defense for a break at 6-5, and moments later he clinched the set.
For the fourth time in Chicago a 10-point match tiebreaker was required, and for the first time it was Team World who prevailed.
Anderson made his move with a huge cross-court winner for a 6-4 lead before the crucial moment came when Djokovic unexpectedly missed a mid-court forehand to fall 8-5 down.
Team World had failed to convert match points in two matches on Day 1, and the nerves jangled when another went begging thanks to a solid Djokovic serve, but Anderson closed it out when the Serb fired a forehand into the net and the South African was swamped by a red tide of relieved teammates.
“Kevin was so well prepared for this, we needed this bad,” said Team World Captain John McEnroe. “It was absolutely awesome.”