Kevin Anderson cracks tennis top 20

13 August 2013

Kevin Anderson became the sixth South African men’s tennis player to be ranked inside the world’s top 20 when the ATP World Tour released its latest singles rankings on Monday.

The towering (2.03 metre-tall) right-hander, who is now ranked 19th in the world, follows in the footsteps of Kevin Curren, Wayne Ferreira, Johan Kriek, Cliff Drysdale and Christo van Rensburg.

Curren owns the highest ever ranking for a South African man, having reached number five in July 1985. Ferreira peaked at number six in May 1995, while Kriek was ranked seventh in September 1984. Drysdale’s high mark was 13th in May 1974, while Van Rensburg was ranked 19th in February 1988.

New goals

In an interview with Talk Radio 702 on Monday evening, Anderson, who began the year ranked 37th in the world, said he has now set his sights on a new goal.

“The next step up for me is going to be in the top 16. The top 16 gets you seeded at all the Masters Series events for the year and the Grand Slams. It takes you from playing a guy ranked one through 16 up until the fourth round.”

Questioned about the reasons for his continuing ascent, Anderson responded: “Continually working hard and looking to improve has been the big theme of my career as a tennis player … being a bit more experienced as well, as I’m playing more tournaments and feeling more comfortable against the top guys in the world.”

Davis Cup

For many South Africans, their most immediate concern about Anderson is when he will return to Davis Cup action for the country. He said it was a question he did not have an answer to at present.

“It has always been a difficult decision, but I have spent my life sacrificing and dreaming of becoming the best that I can be,” Anderson said before explaining that when he was growing up he would look at the world rankings and seeing South Africans doing well provided him with a lot of motivation. He said he hoped that his achievements serve as motivation for young South African tennis players.

Despite his lack of Davis Cup play, Anderson added that he receives “quite a bit of support [from South Africans], which is really nice.”

Good start

Anderson began 2013 on a fine note by reaching the final of the Apia International in Sydney in January where he lost to Australia’s Bernard Tomic.

Even before the tournament, though, it was clear that his game was reaching new heights after his performances in the Hopman Cup in which he defeated Spain’s Fernando Verdasco and the USA’s John Isner and narrowly lost 7-6, 7-6 to France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

At the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 in Indian Wells in March, he became the first South African since Wayne Ferreira in 1996 to reach the quarterfinals of a Masters event. His results included a win over top 10-ranked David Ferrer.

Clay court final

In April, he reached the final of a clay court event for the first time in the Grand Prix Hassan II in Casablanca, but was beaten in three sets by Spanish clay court specialist Tommy Robredo.

Anderson reached the round of 16 at the French Open and followed that up with a round of 32 showing at Wimbledon.

He was ousted in the semi-finals of the Claro Open Colombia in Bogota by eventual champion Ivo Karlovic in July and followed that up with his third runner-up finish of the year at the BB&T Atlanta Open. In a very tight title-decider, John Isner claimed the honours 6-7, 7-6, 7-6.

One obstacle that has stood in the way of Anderson’s success this year has been his nemesis, Tomas Berdych. Of the 16 defeats the South African number one has suffered in 2013, world number six Berdych has been responsible for five of them.