SOUTH Africa’s Kevin Anderson‚ who plays in the US Open semi-finals on Friday night (SA time) is hoping that his run at Flushing Meadows will inspire a new generation tennis players in his home country.
Anderson‚ 31‚ became the first South African tennis player since Cliff Drysdale in 1965 to reach the US Open semis and the first since Wayne Ferreira at the 2003 Australia Open‚ to make a grand slam semi-final.
Is he beats Spain’s No 12 seed Pablo Carreno Busta‚ he would become the first South African in a Grand Slam final since Kevin Curren at Wimbledon in 1985.
The last SA Grand Slam singles champion was Johan Kriek at the 1982 Australian Open.
“I’ve had a lot of support from back home and my biggest hope is that I’m able to inspire some kids to play tennis‚” Anderson said.
“It’s tough coming from South Africa‚ where we are so far from the scene‚ so it makes me feel good that I can fly the flag and show them that of you work hard you can get here.”
But Anderson‚ the 28th seed‚ is not content with reaching a grand slam semi-final for the first time in his career. He wants to go further and believes he can do it against the up-and-coming 26-year-old Spaniard.
After beating 17th seed Sam Querrey‚ the last American hope‚ 7-6 6-7 6-3 7-6 in the quarterfinal Anderson doesn’t want to stop yet.
“I’ve put in a lot of work and reached a milestone that I haven’t before‚ but at the same time I must refocus for my next match‚” Anderson said.
“One of my goals was to further my previous best results at a grand slam and I was able to do that. It feels good but at the same time I want to keep going because I’m still in this tournament.
“I have another opportunity to go one step further.”
Anderson has enjoyed a good few months in the northern hemisphere summer and believes his fitness and more aggressive mindset on court‚ have been keys to his improvement.
“Aggression is something I’ve added to my game because these matches are tough and although it’s clichéd‚ I’m just trying to pay every point as best I can‚” he said.
“It’s taken a lot for me to get to this stage in my career. You work so hard for small differences‚ but at this level where we have all been playing for so long‚ it’s tough to make huge adjustments.
“So we focus on small things. One of those I spend the most time on is keeping my body healthy. After five matches here‚ I’m a little tired but my body is holding up and I take a lot of confidence out of that.
“I’m always looking for ways to improve my game‚ but at times I’ve worked a little too hard instead of trusting my abilities. I feel like I’m doing that better now‚ but it’s a skill you have to learn.”
This will be the second time in less than a month that Anderson will meet Carreno Busta. The South African prevailed in their meeting in Montreal in August‚ winning 6-3 7-6 in a second round clash.
But this time the stakes are higher and both men are on the brink of a first grand slam final‚ which brings its own pressure.
“I played Pablo recently and it was a tough match. It was windy and we both struggled for rhythm and this a new ground for both of us‚” Anderson said.
“There will be adjustments we have to make‚ but for me I will try and do the same things I have been doing and focus on playing my best tennis.
“He has had an amazing year and been very consistent – quarterfinals at the French Open and semis here in New York – so he’s obviously very confident.
“For the last decade we’ve become so accustomed to seeing the same four guys (Roger Federer‚ Rafa Nadal‚ Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray) in a grand slam semi‚ so this is new‚ not only for me‚ but the whole tennis world.
“I’ve been saying all week that although the draw has been open‚ they have been tough matches. It’s just that people are so used to seeing the same names for so long.
“By some of those guys being in the other half of the draw‚ and a couple of them out injured‚ it has given me an opportunity to go deep into the tournament.”
by Craig Ray – Times Live