Kevin Anderson looks to keep a week of firsts going as he battles 16th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for a spot in the Shanghai Masters semifinals. The 12th seed is 0-2 lifetime against Tsonga.
(12) Kevin Anderson vs. (16) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Paths To The Quarterfinals
Anderson has yet to drop a set through three rounds in Shanghai. He started off with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Tommy Haas. The 12th seed crushed 22 aces and won an astounding 34 of 36 points on his first serve. In the second round, he eased past Fabio Fognini 6-3, 7-6. Another strong serving performance highlighted the win with Anderson tallying 15 more aces and winning 76 percent of his service points. The third round was his toughest test and he passed with a 7-6 (10), 7-6 (3) win over sixth seed Kei Nishikori. Anderson showed a steady nerve throughout, but never more apparent than the first set tie break where he staved off four set points before taking the breaker 12-10. Nishikori was the first player to break Anderson's serve all week and he could only do it once.
For Tsonga, he has seen some up and down times in Shanghai through the first three rounds. Tsonga has dropped the first set in two of three matches, but has been able to rally for wins. In his opener, Tommy Robredo took the opener in a tie break before the Frenchman comprehensively dismantled him the next two sets for a 6-7, 6-2, 6-2 win. Tsonga smacked 14 aces in the match. The second round was an easier time with a quick 6-2, 6-2 win over Victor Estrella-Burgos. Tsonga was broken on serve one time again in that match, but was killing Burgos with his first serve that won 25 of 28 points. Round three saw Tsonga battle back from a set down against Roger Federer's vanquisher, Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Tsonga blew a 5-2 lead in the first set to fall in a tie break before coming back for a 6-7, 7-5, 6-4 win. His serve propelled him through with the 16th seed not facing a break point in the second or third set after being broken once in the first.
Tsonga is 2-0 against Anderson with their last meeting coming on clay last year at the Rome Masters. Tsonga edged the South African 7-6 (14), 7-6 (5). The pair also met in New Year's Eve 2012 at the Hopman Cup where Tsonga prevailed in two tie breaks again 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3). As evident by the score lines, serve is huge when these two met as it was a key both on clay in Rome and a hard surface in Perth, Australia. This will be the first time they have met with Anderson as a the higher ranked player. He entered the Top 10 for the first time in his career this week at number ten. Tsonga is ranked 15th.
Tennis purists may not enjoy this match, but fans of the short and aggressive style of play that has become normal on hard courts in today's era should like it. Service holds figure to be the norm in this one with Anderson having only been broken once in three matches. Tsonga has been a little looser with a break of his serve coming in each of his three matches. Still, he has not let that deter him and has only let his opponents see five break chances this week. Anderson has allowed just two.
Both should use their big first serves to set up cheap points in rallies or make rallies moot with aces. Don't figure on seeing too many rallies that make it to double digit exchanges in shots. Both will prefer to work around to rip off forehands rather than exchanging back hands, the weaker shot for both players.
In a week of firsts for Anderson, this could be another. Anderson made the Top 10 this week for the first time. He beat Kei Nishikori this week for the first time in four tries. The 12th seed is also into his first Shanghai Masters quarterfinal. If he continues to serve as well as he has all week and keeps those points short, Anderson could very well find his first win over Tsonga and his first trip to a Masters level semifinal.
Prediction: Anderson wins in three sets.