Roger Federer got his campaign for a seventh ATP Finals title back on track with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Dominic Thiem, while Kevin Anderson closed in on a last-four berth in London with a crushing 6-0. 6-1 win against Kei Nishikori on Tuesday, 13 November.
Having lost his opening round-robin match to Kei Nishikori, Federer was still some way from his fluent best but dropped just six points on serve and took advantage of a wayward display from Thiem to break twice in both sets.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion had canceled his training session a day earlier, but still cut a much-improved figure from his defeat on Sunday, 11 November – his first in a tournament opener at the season-ender since 2013.
"(It) was not about my forehand or my backhand or my serve or anything," Federer said after the match. "I guess it was my head. For that sometimes you need a break."
With a 1-1 record in round-robin play so far, Federer will likely need to defeat Kevin Anderson on Thursday to improve his 14-1 record of reaching the semi-finals at the season-ending tournament.
It will be a repeat of a dramatic Wimbledon quarterfinal earlier this season, in which Anderson came from match point down in the third set to win in five on his route to the final.
"I'm happy I'm getting a chance to play him again and have a rematch," Federer said. "Hopefully I can take my revenge. It was a great match but obviously one that hurt."
Thiem is facing an opening-round exit at the O2 Arena for a third straight season and will need to defeat Nishikori in straight sets to have any chance of progressing.
"I really want to play a good match," Thiem said. "Doesn't matter if it's the last one here or not."
As had been the case in both players' opening-match losses on Sunday, unforced errors flowed early on. While Federer was able to compensate with his serve, Thiem was left exposed.
The Austrian's forehand gifted Federer a break for a 2-1 lead and then his volley came up short to help the Swiss star extend that advantage to 5-2.
Federer, who is chasing a 100th ATP Tour title, started to play more relaxed and seemed content with simply keeping the ball in play and waiting for mistakes. It worked, as another forehand mistake from Thiem put Federer in complete control in the second set.
A Federer backhand up the line set up match point and Thiem's 34th unforced error — another volley into the net — ended the day's second one-sided contest.
"I didn't feel good out there," Thiem said. "I was playing very, very bad. Many unusual mistakes."
Debutant Anderson Soaring on London Debut
Anderson thrashed Nishikori 6-0, 6-1 in the earlier tie on the day to move to 2-0, with the lopsided scoreline all but assuring the South African debutant's place in the last four.
The 32-year-old, who lost just eight points on serve, was on the verge of completing just the second whitewash in the competition's history until Nishikori won the penultimate game.
"Among the best I've played," Anderson said. "I think I did a really good job constantly applying the pressure and not letting up."
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