INDIAN WELLS, CALIF.—It was the world against Kevin Anderson during his quarterfinal here on Thursday night. The Stadium 1 crowd, not unexpectedly, was in the corner of his opponent, Roger Federer. Tournament owner Larry Ellison, seated front and center with his hands folded across his chest, didn’t appear to be in the mood for another upset of one of his star players. Even Anderson’s wife appeared to clap—involuntarily, of course—for a few winners from her husband's opponent.
The Swiss Maestro was in his element, and he was facing an opponent who was out of his—Anderson had played just two Masters quarterfinals in his seven-year career and lost them both. Yet for 10 games there wasn’t a whole lot to separate the two players. In the early going, Anderson had time to tee off on his ground strokes, and he earned a break point at 1-1 before Federer erased it with a service winner. In the next game, Anderson came back from 0-40 down and eventually saved four break points, one of them with a gutsy second serve. For the next six games, Federer cruised through three love holds on his serve, but he couldn’t topple the 6’8” South African on his.
At the time, it didn’t feel inevitable, but looking back now it does: It took Federer just one break, at 5-6, to make both the set and the match his. He started the 5-6 game with a shot he hadn’t tried to that point, a short slice cross-court backhand. It was the right choice; Anderson struggled to get down for it and missed a backhand approach. Federer finished the next point with a smash, and broke at 0-40 with a dipping backhand pass.
Things went quickly from there, and straight downhill for Anderson, as Federer loosened up and began to show off the arsenal. He broke right away with a topspin lob winner and a forehand return that landed on the baseline, then consolidated with a short-hop forehand winner. Federer went on to win 13 points in a row, and, in what felt like minutes, the match, 7-5, 6-1.
Federer was clean, finishing with 17 winners and nine unforced errors. He faced just one break point, and found a way to throw off an opponent who was hitting the ball well at the beginning. Federer has yet to drop a set in the tournament, but this was the best he had looked so far. He reached his seventh straight semifinal, improved his record to 18-2 on the season, and moved past Andy Murray and up to No. 5 in next week's rankings.
Next for him this week will be Alexandr Dolgopolov. The two have played just once, in Basel in 2010. Federer won.