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.

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