Kevin Anderson broke the roll call of past champions at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship to become the first player other than Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, to win the season-opener in Abu Dhabi.
Fitting, perhaps, on the tournament’s 10th anniversary in the UAE capital that a new name should be etched into the history books.
And Anderson, who at the age of 31 is playing the best tennis of his career, was deserving of an impressive 6-4, 7-6 (0) win over Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut under the lights at Zayed Sports City on Saturday night.
It was just about the perfect few days for the South African, who beat Pablo Carreno Busta and Dominic Thiem — two players ranked higher than him – on his way to victory on his second appearance at the event.
“I’ve played three very good matches here this week and I thought the final was of high-quality. Both of us are really looking forward to the start of the season and it’s such a great opportunity to come here to Abu Dhabi,” Anderson, the 2017 US Open finalist, said during his on-court interview.
“Everybody competed really hard, it’s a terrific atmosphere so hopefully I’ll be able to come back more times in the future. I see that there were lots of South Africans in the crowd supporting me all week, and it’s fantastic to see tennis thriving in this part of the world.”
With injuries to the likes of Murray, Djokovic and Nadal, the world number 14 could well be one of the experienced men, but an outsider, looking to do some damage on the fast courts of Melbourne at the Australian Open next month.
“Yes, definitely (using win as springboard going into new season). I just want to thank everybody at the tournament, a special thanks to sponsor Mubadala and it’s just a really good event to be part of.”
Bautista Agut, equally, was in a positive mood after more than playing his part in a competitive showpiece occasion.
He said: “I’ve had some great support here, I really enjoyed playing on this court so thanks a lot to everyone over these three days. It’s a really good event to come and play and I’ve had a good experience here. It’s important to play strong matches going into 2018 and I’m very happy to play the final.”
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