Kevin Anderson’s brilliant year
Kevin Anderson’s mom Barbara charts her son’s hard work and the sacrifices that got him where he is today
HE WAS only 12 years old when he first faced Rafael Nadal on the tennis court. The year was 1998 and Kevin Anderson was in the knockout round of the Junior Masters tournament in Stuttgart, Germany, which Nadal won. The young Kevin probably didn’t foresee that he’d face Rafa again 20 years later – this time in the final of the US Open. Even though he had the whole of South Africa cheering him on, sadly it just wasn’t meant to be.
Kevin (31) lost in straight sets to the Spanish superstar at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York. But in an exclusive interview with YOU his mom, Barbara Anderson (70), tells us she has no doubt her son has what it takes to be a champion.
“Yes, definitely,” she says when we visit her at the Andersons’ home in Sandton, Johannesburg. It may seem daunting at times but it’s within reach, she adds.
She has good reason to believe that: her son was the first South African to reach the final of the US Open in 52 years. The previous local player to do this was Cliff Drysdale, who lost in the final in 1965 against Manuel Santana, also a Spaniard.
The media only really started taking note of Kevin’s progress in this year’s US Open when he made it into the semifinal – the previous South African to get that far was Johan Kriek in 1982.
But tennis fans have been well aware of Kevin’s potential for some time.
He played his first Wimbledon tournament in 2004 and in 2007, aged 21, he turned professional. In 2015 he was ranked No 10 in the world.
Chatting to Barbara, it’s clear his success is the result of years of hard work, dedication and enthusiasm – not just from him but from everyone else in his family.
To prepare for the US Open, Kevin practised against his life-long tennis opponent – his brother Gregory (29).
His younger sibling is a tennis director at a sports academy in New York. Kevin and his American wife, Kelsey (30), a chartered accountant, live on the Gulf Coast in Florida so the two brothers see each other often.
When they were little he and Gregory would spend hours on end playing swing ball in the garden. Eventually their father, Michael (now 79), decided it was time to teach them tennis. Kevin was only four when he got his first racket. Once the bug had bitten it didn’t let go. “Our lives revolved around tennis,” Barbara says.
Their home pays witness to this. Cuttings of Kevin’s recent success are stuck on the fridge and the walls of the study are filled with photographs of their son’s glittering career.
Barbara and her husband try to take things a little easier these days.
“We aren’t glued to the TV anymore during live matches – I find it too nerveracking,” Barbara says, although she adds that Michael sometimes watches reruns of matches and sends Kevin tips.
RIGHT: Kevin Anderson playing his heart out during the recent US Open. He’s the first South African in decades to reach the final round. BELOW: Kevin’s dad, Michael, spent hours teaching Kevin and his younger brother, Gregory, how to play tennis.