Alex Welch/BB&T Atlanta Open
With his first straight-set victory of the 2013 BB&T Atlanta Open, No. 2 seed Kevin Anderson now finds himself just one win away from his third career ATP title. The South African defeated Ryan Harrison 6-3, 7-6(3) on Saturday night to advance to the finals, where he will meet top-seeded John Isner for the ninth time of his career.
For the second night in a row, Anderson stepped up his serve when it mattered most. Down 15-40 towards the end of the second set, he caught Harrison off balance with two huge serves, then aced the young American to take the advantage. Anderson would hold to tie the set at 6-6. He didn’t let the pressure of the situation deter him from fighting off the potential break.
"A couple of times in the second set, I took a comeback and set a couple break points. But I felt I was serving well," said Anderson. "I played a couple loose points to get to 15-40, so I knew if I just buckled down and played a couple good points, I was going to have a good chance of getting back in the game. And I did a good job not thinking about if I lost this set, or why am I in this position."
As the two headed into a tiebreak, Anderson’s serve proved to be the best weapon in his arsenal once again. Two consecutive aces put him ahead 4-3 and left Harrison struggling to find any answer for a possible comeback.
Anderson’s issue throughout the 91-minute match, though, was put his serve in play. He only hit 54 percent of his first serves in. However, he won 32 of the 35 of his first-serve points, which proves how dangerous this facet of his game can be.
Unlike his previous match against Denis Istomin, Anderson made a concentrated effort to attack at the net. He 22 of 31 net points, compared to Harrison’s four. One of the keys to Anderson’s improvement has been his focus here.
Heading into the final day of the tournament, Anderson looks to take down the No. 1 seed. He’s familiar with Isner, as the two have been playing against each other since 2005.
"It’s been quite a few years, and we both turned pro at the same time. He’s had a lot of success, and he’s pushed me to work harder as well," said Anderson.
In eight matches against Isner, Anderson has been in nine tiebreaks. He knows his serve will have to be on to have a chance at taking Isner down.
"It’s obviously very important to focus on my service game. Often we have close sets, and I’m not expecting too much different tomorrow," said Anderson. "I’m just going to have to go out there tomorrow and really take care of my service game, stay patient, and try to be moving well, reacting well and just try to create chances. I think that’s what it comes down to."
Anderson said he’s done a good job this year of setting a clear plan for each match. If he can hone in on his first serve percentage, there’s no doubt a third ATP title could be coming his way soon.