South African Kevin Anderson continued the best season of his career on Wednesday, downing Michael Russell in straight sets to reach the quarterfinals of the ATP Atlanta Championships.
Anderson, a semifinalist at the tournament a year ago, remained on track for a potential final against 2010 champion Mardy Fish.
After enjoying a first-round bye, Anderson opened his Atlanta campaign with a second-round 6-1, 7-5 victory over Russell, a 33-year-old journeyman from the United States.
He will play on Friday against Gilles Muller of Luxembourg — who notched 15 aces in a 7-6 (8/6), 2-6, 6-2 victory over Robby Ginepri who is trying to come back from the broken elbow he suffered in a mountain bike crash last year.
Lu Yen-Hsun of Taiwan rallied to beat Bosnian-born Australian Marinko Matosevic 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.
Anderson (25), ranked 34th in the world, won a title on home turf in Johannesburg this season. Against Russell he needed less than 90 minutes to book his sixth quarterfinal of 2011.
“This season is the result of a lot of hard work,” said Anderson, who has climbed some 100 spots in the world rankings in the last 18 months and captured his first career title.
“I’m clearer on how I want to be playing. I’ve learned a lot playing higher-ranked opponents.
“I now have more belief no matter who is on the other side of the net. I’m working on movement, coming to the net more and trying to dictate. I want to do everything possible to allow myself to play my best tennis.”
Anderson’s big serve produced 10 aces as he broke Russell four times while dropping his own serve once.
The steamy summer conditions on the hard court did not make life any easier for Anderson who, along with Russell, lost a year ago here to eventual runner-up John Isner.
But the weather was cool compared to the scorching temperatures of last years’ inaugural edition.
“The heat picked up at the start but settled down at the end,” Anderson said. “It was definitely more comfortable today than last year. But the heat is still there and you have to manage yourself.
“It can get to you quickly and can take a toll. You have to keep it out of your mind.”
Third-seeded Isner launched his Atlanta campaign later on Wednesday against good friend and Florida neighbour James Blake. — AFP