After missing a sizeable portion of the 2019 and 2020 seasons due to a slew of right elbow and knee injuries, Kevin Anderson is back right where he belongs.

There’s a typical rule of thumb when returning from injuries: the amount of time you miss is about how long it takes to pick up where you left off. But Anderson seems to be an exception to the rule, no doubt due to his meticulous work ethic and humility.

The South African underwent surgery for a torn meniscus in February, though not all was lost with that timing as the tour shut down in early March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Less than three months since his return in New York at the Western & Southern Open in August, he’s dismissed two of the world’s toughest competitors in Pablo Carreno Busta and Daniil Medvedev in Vienna—both in straight sets—to return to his first ATP 500 semifinal since winning this event in 2018.

On Saturday, the 34-year-old will find out exactly where he stands when he takes on Andrey Rublev, arguably the game’s hottest player. After a thrilling first set against defending champion Dominic Thiem, Rublev capitalized against the ailing home favorite in crusing to a 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory. Anderson will look to avenge his recent 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 loss to the Russian at Roland Garros.


Match of the Day: Andrey Rublev vs. Kevin Anderson, Vienna semifinals

Match of the Day: Andrey Rublev vs. Kevin Anderson, Vienna semifinals

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So far, the end-of-year indoor season has been chock full of successful revenge matches. Aryna Sabalenka lost a heartbreaking match to Coco Gauff in Lexington, but turned it around when down, 2-5, in the third to edge the American in Ostrava. Victoria Azarenka throttled Sabalenka at the US Open, but lost, 6-2, 6-2, in the Ostrava final two weeks ago. Jannik Sinner outclassed Alexander Zverev at Roland Garros, only to lose in straight sets the second time around in Cologne. Yoshihito Nishioka handled Felix Auger-Aliassime in straight sets in Paris, but lost to the Canadian in Cologne, 6-3, 6-4. Most recently, Grigor Dimitrov avenged his Roland Garros defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas on Thursday in Vienna.

The revenge factor is real, but don’t expect Anderson to oust the ATP Finals hopeful. Rublev’s flat, piercing groundstrokes are far too effective in the still, indoor conditions. At this point in the five-month shortened 2020 season, he’s racked up an astounding 37 wins in addition to his four titles.

Now that Novak Djokovic has been eliminated, Rublev is the clear-cut favorite to win the tournament. A fifth 2020 title could propel him to greater ATP Player of the Year consideration. After everything we’ve seen Rublev accomplish this year, it’s becoming nearly impossible to bet against him.

The Pick: Andrey Rublev