Kevin Anderson made a dream Nitto ATP Finals debut in London on Sunday when he beat Dominic Thiem of Austria 6-3, 7-6 (10) in his opening round-robin match.
Anderson admitted to some nerves at the beginning of the match but trashed them into the roof of the tent-like O2 Arena with some great serving action, putting in all effort against Thiem.
'I definitely felt a little bit nervous,' said Anderson. 'But I was able to settle very quickly and find a really good rhythm, taking care of my serve games nicely, creating quite a few opportunities on his serve.'
When Thiem missed a number of first serves, Anderson was able to fire his big returns to put his opponent under pressure. He broke in the fourth game of the match, which should have made it a double-break in a marathon sixth game.
When Thiem tightened up his game, 32-year-old Anderson was still the dominant player with set points at 5-2, eventually taking the set 6-3 with just one break of serve.
Thiem served much better in the second set, which saw no break points and turned out to be a tie-break decider. Thiem led 3-1, but Anderson fought straight back, and had match point at 6-5.
'The second set could have been anybody's set. He started serving well, I was taking care of my serve games and when its 10-12 in a tie-breaker, it could have been either way.
'I think overall just getting off to a good start helped me a lot,' Anderson added.
Then at 10-10, Thiem missed a first serve, Anderson attacked the second, Thiem drove Anderson wide to his forehand side, prompting Anderson to attempt an unlikely forehand down the line at full stretch over the high part of the net. He landed the ball precisely in the corner of sideline and baseline, and on the next point served his 13th ace to win.
After the match, Anderson expressed his joy over his win, 'It was fantastic to be here, I've worked so long to get here. I've been watching this tournament since I was a little kid, so to come out here and play in such an amazing atmosphere and play rather good tennis to win, I couldn't be more happy right now.'
In his group, Anderson still has to play Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori on Tuesday and Thursday respectively, with the top two in the group advancing to Saturday's semi-finals.
Meanwhile, fellow South African Raven Klaasen was not disappointed with the 7-6, 4-6, 10-5 defeat he and Michael Venus suffered against Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, as the set they won could well be important in the final group reckoning.
They broke in the second game, where they had set points at 5-4 before losing the set on a tie-break, and nearly let their second set go despite breaking early. A couple of bad points early in the super tie-break left them chasing the game, eventually losing the shootout.
Klaasen and Venus are now under pressure to deliver good results in their match on Tuesday against Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya. Should the pair win every set, it will see them through to the knockout stages.