Kevin Anderson Rafa-ling feathers in the Big Apple
The remain-in-the-moment mantra of hitting one ball at a time has finally paid off for South Africa’s US Open finalist Kevin Anderson.
“His dad Mike always said don’t look too far. Be yourself, play one ball at a time. The ball has no memory, you create it. And have no regrets,” said Barbara Anderson yesterday after her son set up a meeting with Rafa Nadal tonight at Flushing Meadows.
Her big serving-son’s perseverance is starting to pay off. “It is nice to see all the practice and all the years of us dedicating our lives to tennis coming to fruition. The easy part almost is playing the match, not all the stuff that went into it,” she said sagely.
In that regard Kelsey, Kevin’s wife, has been a rock. “She's been at his side, keeping his feet on the ground,” said Kevin's mom. “For the last four, five years she has been travelling with him and that has helped to create a sense of home-based travel.”
They met at the University of Illinois, and Kelsey put her career in accounting on hold to help manage Anderson. By beating Pablo Carreño Busta her husband has a shot at glory after an inordinate amount of effort went into his recovery from injury.
The player paid tribute to his team headed by coach Neville Godwin, but reserved speHe cial mention for physio Richard Sutton, whose treatment averted hip surgery.
“He came here (Johannesburg) in November and December of last year and had intensive treatment for six weeks. He then took a few months off and his ranking dropped,” Kevin’s mom said.
With a recuperated body Anderson set about repairing his ranking that had dropped to 80.
While he was doing so, perhaps ironically, the high rate of attrition on the ATP tour took its toll elsewhere.
Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic all yielded to orthopaedic upheaval before New York to help smooth Anderson’s path to the final.
acknowledged as much. “It was nice of them to step aside this time,” Anderson selfdeprecatingly remarked.
Win or lose tonight, however, he hasn't so much broken records as set it straight.
This country's long-time highest-ranked player became the lowest-ranked man (32nd) to reach the final in New York since the ranking system was introduced in 1973.
He is the first South African-born player to reach a grand slam final since Kevin Curren lost in the climax of Wimbledon in 1985, while Cliff Drysdale was the last man in possession of an RSA passport to contest the US Open men’s singles final.
That was back in 1965, even before ground was broken for the construction of New York's twin towers.
At 2.07m Anderson is also the tallest man to reach a grand slam final.
Anderson's quarterfinal against American Sam Querrey was his first in the imposing 23 771 capacity Arthur Ashe Stadium - the world’s biggest tennis-specific arena.
He seemed to warm to the loud arena with overt displays of self-encouragement.
The odds however are stacked against him. At 31 he is a novice to the business end of grand slam tournaments, unlike his opponent, Nadal, who is in his 23rd.
Anderson’s task becomes greater still when you consider Nadal had won their four previous encounters.
This year Nadal too has been on a path to physical restoration. That he was over his injuries was confirmed when he reached the Aussie Open final. That his appetite was as voracious as ever was underlined with a 10th title at Roland Garros, while his reclamation of the No 1 ranking served notice that he was on top of, if not his game, his closest rivals.
While Anderson's folks won't be with him he will be surrounded by friendly faces. Golfers Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, perhaps also escaping Hurricane Irma, were there for the semifinal.
Many feel Anderson is going to need all the help he can get against the 15-time grand slam winner. “He phoned briefly after his semifinal. He couldn’t talk long,” said mom.
“He didn't talk about the final. He just wanted to say hello. He was looking forward to just having the day off before the final. Time to regroup and absorb the nice win that he had.”
Anderson's folks still have to decide whether they will stay up for the final. “We preferred to watch it in a relaxed state. We knew the result by the time we watched the semi. You watch with joy in your heart and not all the nerves.”
Maybe that is the best course of action. As redoubtable opponents go, few are tougher than Nadal. “It is probably the most important match for me that remains this year,” the Spaniard told reporters about the final.
It undoubtedly is the most important of Anderson's life.
The easy part almost is playing the match Barbara Anderson Kevin Anderson’s mom
Kevin Anderson will play against Rafael Nadal in tonight’s US Open final in New York City.