Playing with the speed of a Chunnel surfer, Roger Federer surged to a commanding lead and withstood a bit of a bumpy finish to complete an annual autumn passage. Riding a sharp serve and fast footwork, Federer swept Kevin Anderson, 6-4, 6-4, to reach the round of 16 and secure a spot in London: The victory punched his ticket to the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals for the 12th consecutive year.
It was a confident performance of attacking tennis for the most part, though Federer complicated matters by squandering a 5-1 second-set lead, and was forced to fend off two break points serving for the match a second time before finally creating closure.
Whether it was the challenge of working out the kinks in front of a large evening crowd, strained nerves from facing Federer for the first time, or the pressure of playing for a return trip to the round of 16, Anderson was as tight as the white adhesive tape wrapped high around both ankles in the opening game. In a horror show of a start, Anderson clanked two double faults, hit a flat forehand into the net, and then struck a wild, runaway forehand that threatened to hide in the greenery circling the back wall to donate serve. The fifth-seeded Swiss curled a cross-court forehand winner to seal a love hold in less than two minutes and collect a 2-0 lead.
Deadlocked at deuce in the eighth game, Federer stabbed a volley back, giving Anderson a good look at a forehand pass. He lifted it long, and Federer evaded the only obstacle he faced on serve in the opening set, holding for 5-3. The crowd serenaded the 2011 champion with a chant of "Roger! Roger!" as he stepped up to serve out the opening set. He built a 40-0 lead, stalled with two errors, then hooked a slice serve wide to set up a forehand up the line hit behind the 6'7" South African. Federer's serve was the key stroke in the 40-minute opener: He won 70 percent of his second-serve points and dropped only seven service points in all.
Anderson's serve and backhand are weapons, but his forehand was simply too erratic to provide much resistance for much of the second set. Federer shrewdly played the biting slice backhand at times, forcing the bigger man to bend low to scrape shots off his shoelaces. Even when he put a series of forehands together to take charge in a point, Anderson sometimes bungled the pay-off by mismanaging the spin of his mid-court forehand, either flattening the shot into the net or sailing it long.
When he's sharp and hitting his targets, the accelerated pace at which Federer plays can be daunting for first-time opponents. Federer played points like a dancer who had choreographed the routine, while his opponent was just learning the steps, as he won 12 of the first 14 points in one stretch in roaring to a 5-1 second-set lead.
London was calling Federer, but Anderson wasn't done with the night. Credit the South African for hanging tough, finding the range on his forehand, and extending baseline rallies. When Federer's forehand went awry, Anderson broke back for 3-5, before consolidating at love for 4-5. Down double break point as he served for it again, Federer reached back and fired successive service winners, stung a forehand approach to set up a blocked backhand volley for match point, and closed on another Anderson error. Federer, who finished with seven aces, and denied five of six break points, carries a 7-0 career record against his next opponent, Philipp Kohlschreiber.