WILLIAM, ANDERSON UP FOR A GOOD YEAR
As the Australian Open starts tomorrow, Silver Sibiya writes that Serena Williams and South African Kevin Anderson are in good stead to steal the thunder at the first grand slam of the year
At 37 Serena Williams stands a better chance of winning her record-equalling 24th grand slam this year than last year when she missed the Australian Open.
The former world number one missed out in the first grand slam of the year four months after she gave birth to daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian.
The tennis legend said she was not ready to compete.
But Williams aims to win a record 24th grand slam singles title to equal Australian Margaret Court’s record.
Age is no longer on her side and it will be a tough task. Last year she came close twice but it didn’t happened.
The seven-time Australian Open champion first lost to German Angelique Kerber at the Wimbledon final, then to Naomi Osaka (20) at the US Open.
Despite her great return to the pinnacle of her game, her comeback was overshadowed by her verbal exchange with umpire Carlos Ramos.
Now she will fight for the record at the Australian Open starting tomorrow.
This is where she famously won her last grand slam, defeating her sister Venus in the final two years ago while eight weeks pregnant. In the process she surpassed German Steffi Graf’s record of 22 titles.
Last week Williams and Frances Tiafoe represented the US and lost 4-2, 4-3 to Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic, who were representing Switzerland in a mixed doubles match in the Hopman Cup.
It was the first time Federer had shared a court with Williams.
Williams won her singles match against Bencic and Frances Tiafoe lost to Federer.
In the end the score was 2-1 to the Swiss team that went on to beat Germany in the final.
As with many sporting legends, Williams has accomplished many records winning three French Opens, seven Wimbledons and six US Opens in her remarkable career.
She is considered by pundits as one of the greatest tennis players of all time.
But equalling Court’s record will cement her legendary status in the history books.
Pundits who City Press spoke to agree that Association Tennis Professional (ATP) sixth-ranked Kevin Anderson has a chance to win his first grand slam this year.
“If anyone in the top six is capable of winning the Grand Slam, Kevin is,” said prominent tennis analyst Bruce Davidson.
He concedes it is going to be a tough task for him but it is “doable”.
“It will be tough for him. The only ones that can beat him are the big boys and it will depend on how they play.”
Anderson has reached two grand slam finals in the past two years.
First the US Open when he lost to 17time grand slam winner Rafael Nadal and at Wimbledon to 14-time champion Novak Djokovic.
Davidson said the 2.03m giant is probably the “in form player” behind Djokovic in the world right now.
“I think he is going to be a strong contender for the title.”
The lanky South African’s impressive run at the grand slams improved his ranking to a career high of number five.
Tennis SA chief executive officer Richard Glover concurred with Davidson: “I have seen great progress in his game.
“He started the year well in India, I don’t think [Roger] Federer and Djokovic would like to play against him early in the tournament.”
The Florida-based star has not gone past the fourth round before at Melbourne Park.
The New York Open champion lost his first match at the Australian Open last year to the UK’s Kyle Edmund who later lost in the semifinals.
“He has a good chance at the Australian Open and he has shown he can deliver at the grass courts of Wimbledon and hard courts at US Open,” Glover said.
The 32-year-old will face 41st ranked Adrian Mannarino of France in the first round.
It could be an easy win for Anderson but the tough battle comes at the quarterfinals when he faces Nadal – if they both win their opening matches.
Then, if he makes the semifinals, he could again face Federer.
Former TSA president Bongani “Wire” Zondi agreed that Anderson now stands a better chance of winning a grand slam than before.
“To be honest, he is doing very well,” he said.
“Unlike before when he had injuries now he has the potential to win a grand slam.
“He can even surprise everyone at the Australian Open.
“The two grand slam finals gave him great experience and the first one could be his provided luck is on his side.”
Local coach Oupa Nthuping said he was proud to see him do well.
“As a Dunlop brand ambassador, Kevin’s rackets sponsor, I am proud to see him rise up and his chances of winning a grand slam are high.
“His discipline on and off the court has made him a player to watch.”
After losing in the final of the Indian Maharashtra Open last year to Gilles Simon of France, the Johannesburgborn started this year with a bang beating Ivo Karlović of Croatia 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 to clinch his sixth career title in Pune last weekend.
Should Anderson win a grand slam, he will be the first South African since Johan Kriek won back-to-back Australian Opens in 1981 and 1982.
LEGEND Former world number one Serena Williams could level Australian Margaret Court’s 24 grand slam titles
FIRST GRAND SLAM? Kevin Anderson could win his first grand slam this year