Kevin Anderson is through to the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP Finals in London, despite losing his final group match 6-4, 6-3 to Roger Federer, following Dominic Thiem's 6-1, 6-4 win over Kei Nishikori.
This achievement makes Anderson the first African in the semi-finals in the tournament's 48-year history.
Federer's win means he tops the group, leaving Anderson likely to face the in-form world No 1 Novak Djokovic on Saturday, which would be a repeat of the Wimbledon final.
The Federer-Anderson match was a clash of tennis giants and was decided on a flurry of breaks and break opportunities late in the first set. At 3-2, Anderson had Federer at 0-30 on the Swiss' serve, but Federer bounced back. To punish Anderson for failing to seize his chance, Federer broke to lead 4-3, only to be broken straight back to love as Anderson used the width of the court to full effect.
Anderson was then broken again as Federer led 5-4; minutes later Anderson had Federer on the ropes at 0-40. But Federer, who hasn't looked top of his game this week, suddenly found five excellent points to take the set.
'I feel like some of the things he did today I didn't really adjust to very well,' said Anderson after the match. 'I thought he used the change of pace very well. I felt pretty good out on the court, but I didn't execute or play at a high enough level to win.
'That was a little bit disappointing because I feel I've played some really good tennis so far. The plus side is that I'm through to the semis and it feels great,' Anderson added.
Djokovic is guaranteed his place in the semi-finals, but needs to win at least a set against Marin Cilic on Friday to be sure of finishing top of the group. The semi-final lineup could possibly look like Djokovic vs Anderson and Federer vs Sascha Zverev, but John Isner may yet upset the German's chances in the Friday afternoon match.
Meanwhile, Raven Klaasen and his New Zealand partner Michael Venus bowed out of the doubles. They began the final day in their group potentially needing to win just one set, but once Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares had beaten Henri Kontinen and John Peers, the match between Klaasen-Venus and Colombians Juan-Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah became a straight eliminator for the semi-finals.
Klaasen and Venus' opponents are coached by South Africa's Jeff Coetzee, the first non-white South African to win tour titles.
Coetzee had told his players to be aggressive, and it worked against a slightly substandard Klaasen and Venus, winning 6-3, 7-6 (5). Despite breaking early in the second set, Klaasen and Venus were dragged level, and then trailed 6-1 in the tiebreak. They saved four match points, but then a Cabal ace finished the job to see the Colombians through.
Friday sees the final day of group matches, with Saturday hosting both singles and doubles semi-finals.
Photo: Kevin Anderson in action at the ATP Finals in London on Thursday, supplied by ATP World Tour