In mid-2015, Kelsey Anderson, wife of tennis player Kevin Anderson and one of the most visible faces of his support staff at every tournament he plays, contributed a bunch of essays to a tennis blog titled The Changeover. Kelsey wrote about myriad topics relating to life on the tour that the average fan might have little knowledge about.
One of the first topics she took up was how to deal with defeat. She began with an anecdote about Wayne Ferreira, a player celebrated for his longevity in the game. He asked her to guess that in such a long career, how many weeks did he go without facing a tennis match defeat? The answer is 15. Only 15. She wanted to explain how losing is more common and always just a couple of points away for a tennis player compared to a win and dealing with it forms the core of the successful sportsman one strives to become. She further went on to talk about stakes and expectations. What is hanging on this match? A first Wimbledon semi-final? What are the expectations? And finally, what are the chances? Did the player have a chance to win — had multiple break points or even a match point — but did not close it out?
Something like that happened on men's quarter-final day at Wimbledon and the one who had the chance but could not close it out was named Roger Federer. He had a match point in the third set to finish and go watch England take on Croatia in the World Cup semis but Federer squandered it. Such are the margins in tennis that Anderson jumped on it and went on to take the third and fourth set, forcing a fifth.
Federer, who sped through the first set with some assured serves and hitting, could just about hold his end of the game in the decider. Federer was serving first in the fifth but at 11-11, he couldn't repeat what he'd been doing all day and gave away the break which the Anderson serve took great care of. Winning the first two sets at 6-2 and 7-6 and then losing the match at 11-13 can be debilitating but a loss is part of the day in, day out in tennis and both Federer and Anderson know this better than anyone.
The essay on dealing with defeat was written by Kelsey at the end of August 2015. In September that followed, Anderson had his first quarter-final run in the US Open when he beat Andy Murray in the fourth round for one of his biggest victories. This of course, as both the Andersons would attest, wasn't an aberration. Just a couple of months before the breakthrough US Open, Anderson almost took out the then defending champion Novak Djokovic in the fourth round of Wimbledon, leading by two sets to love. Djokovic, like he has always done, gathered all his physical and mental fortitude to come back from it and snatch the match away from Anderson. That's the kind of defeat that can either shape or break a player and three years later, we can vociferously say that the Kevin Anderson of today is a better player than he was four years ago. A few good runs deep into tournaments and injuries that have kept him out of the tour for longer periods in 2016 and 2017 have helped him realise how much he likes the tour, and in turn, have translated into big results.
Anderson has insisted on concentrating more on the process of becoming better than the results on court itself. That does remind you of the man he defeated to cause the biggest quarter-final upset on Wednesday, the one with 20 Grand Slams. Anderson believes that if you fall in love with the process, the results will come automatically.
Anderson finished his breakthrough year in 2015 ranked 12. No thanks to injuries, he ended 2016 at 67. After dropping to 80 in the early weeks of 2017, Anderson put together some results to see some small spike up the ladder. The boost wouldn't come till the US Open series when he had good results in Washington and Montreal, and the biggest of them all, a run to the US Open final. On the tour, the words you hear about Anderson are usually "nice", "professional", "hard working". Nothing in his progress, his results, his demeanour on and off the court, or what his colleagues say about him suggests that any of it is fabricated.
In the press conference, Federer talked about how Anderson has everything to come up with a match like Wednesday's even if their previous matches have been one-sided and he is right. Often with his height and serve, Anderson is billed as big-serve-and-nothing player. But Anderson, even at 6'8, can move well to take his big forehands.
Over the last three-four years, Anderson added weapons that only complement his serve and a bunch of close losses coupled with deep runs and his peerless work ethic have brought him to this stage today — a US Open final last year, a Wimbledon semi-final and a possible final in 2018. He'd fancy his chances against another big server like John Isner. He'd fancy his chances against Rafael Nadal on grass a little more than the US hard courts. Against Djokovic, he'd like to cancel the painful 2015 fourth round defeat. For Anderson, there is only one way to go. Ahead.
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Updated Date: Jul 12, 2018 15:24:40 IST