Anderson: 'I've Always Believed That I Have This In Me'
South African reflects on 2016 injuries and lessons learned from 2017 US Open breakthrough
After finishing a stellar 2015 season at No. 12 in the ATP Rankings, Kevin Anderson's hopes of solidifying his newfound status as a Top 15 player were quickly derailed by knee, ankle, shoulder and hip injuries.
The South African ended his 2016 campaign with a 17-21 losing record before falling to No. 80 at the start of the 2017 season. But now, just 18 months later, the 32-year-old is one match away from reaching his second Grand Slam final, having come from two sets, and match point, down to defeat eight-time champion Roger Federer at Wimbledon.
"It was definitely a pretty tough time for me in 2016 [and at the] beginning of 2017," reflected Anderson. "I think what definitely helped me was pretty soon, early on in 2017, I felt I started hitting the ball really well on the practice court, and I had been for a while... It just took me a little bit of time to find my legs in the competitive atmosphere.
"I feel that started to change towards the end of the clay-court season last year... I'm always very highly motivated, intrinsically myself. I have a great team behind me. Even the days that felt tough, there was never a question in my mind of where I wanted to get back to."
Anderson has produced the best tennis of his career in the past year, winning his fourth ATP World Tour title at the inaugural New York Open and finishing as runner-up in four further tour-level events. The 6'8" Johannesburg native could rise as high as No. 4 in the ATP Rankings on 16 June if he clinches his first Grand Slam crown.
"I've always believed that I have this in me, to constantly get better," said Anderson. "[I am] very motivated to keep improving. I feel like it's very rewarding seeing those improvements take place, week in, week out, especially over the last 52 weeks.
"I really have felt a lot of improvements in that time... My team believes in me a lot. My family believes in me a lot. I think I've started to believe in myself a lot more. Coming into this event I definitely felt just a more quiet confidence... than maybe I had in the past. Obviously with matches like [the quarter-final], that definitely assists that process, too."
With a semi-final run at The All England Club, Anderson has now built on his surprise run to the 2017 US Open final where he lost to World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in three sets. Ten months on, after defeating Federer for the first time in five FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, Anderson revealed the lessons he has learned from his surprise run in New York, as he looks to match, and potentially better, that achievement on the hallowed turf of SW19.
"At the US Open, because it was pretty new being in the semi-finals and in the final, it was a lot of excitement, a lot of emotions. I think going into the final, there was maybe a bit too much relief that [I was] in the final and I didn't give myself as much of a chance to win that match from a mental side," said Anderson.
"I learned some valuable lessons throughout that tournament because... the way I approached the [quarter-final against Federer] was a bit more with expectations that I want to keep going. As exciting as it is, I feel like I'm doing a good job of keeping it in perspective. There's hopefully two more matches still to be played. As of right now, I'm more focused on that than getting too excited about the overall picture."