Kevin Anderson defeats Dominic Thiem at ATP Finals in London
Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson made a dream debut at the ATP Finals by defeating Dominic Thiem in his opening match of Group Lleyton Hewitt.
Anderson, the first South African to qualify for the tournament since Wayne Ferreira 23 years ago, came through 6-3 7-6 (12-10) to make a perfect start to his campaign.
He settled quickly with Thiem's inability to find a fast start on the indoor hardcourt, and he deservedly broke through in the fourth game.
His all-out attacking policy was proving too much for the French Open runner-up and some high-level serving along with 15 winners helped him close out the first set.
Anderson is among the five oldest first-timers in the history of the tournament and the oldest since its infancy in the early 1970s.
The 32-year-old was pushed into a second-set tie-breaker after a much-improved display by Thiem, but did enough to get the job done on his fourth match point with his 13th ace having saved two set points to the Austrian in a gripping conclusion.
Anderson was in full flow in the first set and constructed this winner by moving Thiem wide before unleashing a fine forehand up the line.
"It's just fantastic to be here," said Anderson. "I've worked so hard to be here, I've been watching this tournament since I was a little kid so to come out here, play in such an amazing atmosphere and get the win is fantastic. I couldn't be more happier right now."
Austria's Thiem is looking to advance past the round-robin stage for the first time in his third year at the tournament, but he now faces an uphill task with Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori to come, while Anderson has put himself in an excellent position to make the semi-finals.