Top african tennis star Kevin Anderson in perfect position as signs indicate a big change in men’s tennis

March 21, 2014 7:08 pm0 comments by:

Kevin Anderson

This year Swiss tennis star Stanislas Wawrinka surprised everyone by beating Raphal Nadal to win the Australian Open. Then, another young tennis player Grigor Dimtov beat top 10 ranked players on his way to reaching the later rounds of the first Grandslam of 2014. This two surprise events by young male players raised a sense of optimism and expectations of big change in the men elite tennis players. It was on the back off similar events late 2013 , with emergence of young players in the draw becoming competitive against current elite players Novak, Nadal, Federer and Murray. These set of players (Novak, Nadal, Federer and Murray) have entertained audiences for a long period and occupied the top 4 for a number of years now.

Sporting talents like tennis players should learn from defeats, injuries and past experiences to work on their weakness. There is a good quote from Mohammed Ali that illustrates this point. A man who views the world the same at fifty as he views in 20 has wasted 30 years of his life
You need new faces, attitudes and perspectives to keep fans entertained especially in men’s grand slam matches, which can last as long as 4 hours. Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka is among a group of potential players, who have been trying to break into the top 4. However, he is not entirely new to the scene compared to say Alexandra Dolgoplov or Grigor Dimtrov. He is among players like Tsonga, Ferrer, Gasquet, who have always been regarded as good players with the ability to win against Novak or Murray on any given day. Whilst, they have showed glimpses at various instances, it has not been in major finals.
The new set of players like Alexandra or Grigor have shown strong glimpses that they will go one step higher.
For instance, on 1 March, Grigor Dimtrov won his second ATP World Tour title in three-set, three-hour win over Kevin Anderson in Acapulco final. He became the second player born in the 1990s (Raonic) to win multiple title. He also beat Andy Murray in Semifinal that finished in early hours 2.30am in the morning.
At the next tournament in Indian Wells,Dolgoplov beat Nadal in Miami. Kevin Anderson beat No 3 ranked player Wawrinka also in the same tournament to indicate he is in the midst of a big change in men’s tennis.

I wrote an article in 2013 on the forgotten sports in Africa( lawn tennis) and mentioned  Kevin Anderson’s name, as the sole African top tennis player. In my research for the article, I learnt that Kevin was ranked top 3 in aces served in 2013 with 65. However, his record against top 10 was very poor. He won once in 10 matches against a top ten ranked player. This prompted me to check out why he has not improved since turning pro in 2007. The outcome is that injury has played its part to hamper steady progress. However, he still produced good performance,whenever fit.

He has showed inconsistent form with a series of good wins followed by disappointing losses. In 2008 he reached his first ATP final and won a Challenger title. He competed and qualified for 2008 Australian Open . And then later for his first ATP Masters Series in Miami . He posted his biggest win over Novak in Round 2 before losing in the next match.
In subsequent years has won matches in ATP events but then lost in the final or later stages. He underwent right elbow surgery in January 21 2013 to repair bone chips in Melbourne and returned to action a month later.
He climbed the ranking ladder with series of victories in ATP tournaments. In 2013 became 1st player from South Africa to finish in Top 20 since Wayne Ferreira was No.13 in 2000. He reached a personal-best 3 finals: in Sydney losing Tomic in 3 sets and on clay in Casablanca to Robredo and in Atlanta to Isner in 3 sets.
I hope this year is the breakout year for Kevin Anderson as the field is getting even competitive. He appears to have overcome the knee injury suffered in 2011, elbow in 2013 and viral infection in 2014.The knee injury suffered in 2011 made him to change his fitness regime. He had to withdraw from Davis Cup duties and taken almost 8 months of treatment and rehabilitation to resolve the injury. He employed a physio and trainer full time to improve his fitness and health. The sign of improvement will be in finals of minor tournaments and getting to the quarter finals, semifinals or even final of a Grand slam. His record in grand slams has always been encouraging but not exceptionally. He regularly goes past the 1st Round in most of the slams but loses in 3rd or 4th Round.

It does not appear promising based on results so far. This year, reached the Delray Beach final and lost to Cilic in three sets. It was his fourth consecutive defeat in an ATP World Tour final since hoisting the Delray Beach trophy in 2012.On 1 March, competing in his second final in as many weeks lost to Dimitrov in three-set, three-hour Acapulco final.

In the next event at Indian Wells this month,he gave a good performance against Federer  that shows hope of a breakout.Africa as a continent continues to struggle in producing the next generation of elite  tennis stars. For a big continent like Africa to have only 1 player in top 100 is disappointing and needs to change as soon as possible. Hopefully, 2014 is the year of change .

Obioma Aguocha

Self Publisher:The Guide to being the Best(Paperback) 2007 &Sporting Success Simplified (E-book) 2012

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