Kevin Anderson. Picture: ADAM PRETTY/GETTY IMAGES
Kevin Anderson. Picture: ADAM PRETTY/GETTY IMAGES

The last time a South African made the elite eight-man ATP World Finals, Nelson Mandela was president, the Springboks were world champions and R3.50 would have bought you
a dollar.

When Kevin Anderson fired down his 13th ace of the match to clinch the Erste Bank Open in Vienna on Sunday with a 6-3
7-6 win over Japan’s Kei Nishikori, he secured his place in November’s showpiece.

Anderson, 32, is the fourth oldest debutant at the season finale and the first South African since Wayne Ferreira in 1995 to lock down his place at the prestigious event in London.

Only Australian great Ken Rosewall (36 at the inaugural staging in Tokyo, in 1970), Spain’s Andres Gimeno (35), and South African Bob Hewitt (32), both in Barcelona 1972, were older debutants than Anderson.

The 2.03m South African is the sixth qualifier following Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin Del Potro and Alexander Zverev. Del Potro, though, is likely to withdraw because of a wrist injury.

Victory in Vienna was Anderson’s second ATP title of the season after a win in New York in February and the fifth tour title of his career. It was also his first ATP 500 win.

"It means a lot [to win my first ATP World Tour 500 title]. It has been a long time coming... any time you make a final, you want to put the history behind you and it was always going to be a tough match," said Anderson.

"I was up against an unbelievable opponent in Kei and I really had to play some amazing tennis. I couldn’t be more pleased to have finally broken through at this level."

Anderson collected R7.8m for winning in Vienna, taking his season’s earnings to R61.4m and his career earnings to R210m.

Anderson was naturally delighted to have achieved one of his main objectives of 2018 – making the World Finals in London. "It’s fantastic. It’s [qualifying for London] been a huge goal of mine all year," said Anderson. "I felt I came pretty close the two previous seasons.

"I think it’s one of our biggest tournaments of the year, really celebrates the top eight players of the year. You have to win a lot of big matches against the best opponents in the world to book your spot there, so it’s fantastic to be among the best eight players in the world.

"And just London, the event itself, I’ve heard so much about it – a great arena, a great atmosphere – and to do it by winning my first 500 here in Vienna, as well, is a great combination."

Anderson has now finished five of the past six seasons in the Top 20 (2013-15, 2017-18). His previous-best finish to a campaign came in 2015, when he was year-end No 12 in the ATP Rankings (46-24 match record).