By Ashley Marshall, USOpenSeries.com
Kevin Anderson broke through in 2017 with a run to the US Open final, and he continued his momentum into 2018, reaching his second major final in 10 months at Wimbledon. USOpenSeries.com spoke with Anderson about gaining self-belief, enjoying the summer hard-court swing and that support network that has helped him get to the pinnacle of the sport.
USOpenSeries.com: Congratulations on a fantastic summer. First the Wimbledon final, then the Rogers Cup semifinals. How are you feeling?
Kevin Anderson: Thank you so much. Yeah, it’s just getting started. I had a really close match in the semifinals [in Toronto]. Obviously, it would have been great to get through to the final, but I definitely saw it as a good week, reaching my first semifinal there.
USOpenSeries.com: You’ve been doing particularly well on the North American hard courts the past 18 months. What is it about playing in the U.S. that suits you and your game?
Kevin Anderson: Especially at Indian Wells, Miami, the hard courts are what I grew up on, so I’m probably most used to it. I do live in the U.S. now. It’s been my base for the past almost 15 years, so maybe it feels like my home away from home. It’s easy travel to and from my house, so maybe that contributes to it, as well.
USOpenSeries.com: After the success you had last year in New York, what did you try to take from that run to keep the momentum going?
Kevin Anderson: I think a few things. After the Open, I didn’t have the end of the year that I would have liked, so there were some lessons to learn from that. Going into this year, we reset and looked at what was working and what hadn’t been working, and we used the US Open as belief, as evidence, of what I can achieve. I felt like I did a great job this year of hitting the goals I wanted to achieve and sticking to what’s been working for me. I’m constantly learning and moving forward. Then outside of that, it’s been taking one day at a time and staying very motivated and excited to keep doing better and better.
USOpenSeries.com: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about yourself over the past year?
Kevin Anderson: One of the biggest things is that I have the game to compete with the best in the world and compete on the biggest stages of the biggest events. I’ve had that belief before, but I think that by doing it, it’s further solidified that. Moving forward, the goals have changed from doing well at these events to winning these events. I think that’s been really important.
USOpenSeries.com: How much of that is mental, knowing you can beat the [Roger] Federer, [Grigor] Dimitrov and [John] Isner on any given day?
Kevin Anderson: It’s always a big mental challenge. Some guys have been able to do it maybe a little bit quicker and come out and been a little more free-swinging, and I’ve been a bit more systematical and worked really hard to take a lot of small steps along the way. I’ve created more belief in my game and in my ability and putting myself in that position, and I’ve seen the tangible side of beating them and putting myself in that position. I’ve gone up with smaller steps, but that’s something I’ve actually tried to change this year. I’ve tried to take bigger steps. As an example, at the US Open last year, after reaching the quarterfinals for the first time, I was able to take a few bigger steps forward to make the final.
USOpenSeries.com: As part of the US Open Series, there are lots of big tournaments back-to-back in the build up to the US Open. What makes this part of the season so special?
Kevin Anderson: Even if we didn’t have to be here, I’d still be here. They’re great events, there are lots of points on offer, and they’re really strong fields. Then the US Open speaks for itself. The tournaments [I’ve played] around it have fluctuated year by year – I haven’t played Winston-Salem for the last couple years, this year I had to withdraw out of Atlanta – but living in Florida, it’s my time to go home a little bit. In terms of travel and conditions and environment, that definitely plays into it, as well.
USOpenSeries.com: You're just a few weeks away from coming back to New York. What do you enjoy most about the US Open?
Kevin Anderson: It’s always going to be a very special event to me. For a few years, it was my least successful Grand Slam. I hadn’t made it past the third round, then I was able to change that, making my first Grand Slam quarterfinal there, my first final was there last year. I’m really excited to go back. It’s a great city, and I have a lot of support. My brother lives nearby, and I have a lot of friends that come and support, so I think it will be really exciting going back there on the back of last year’s result.
USOpenSeries.com: So many people have helped you get to where you are at this point in your career. Can you speak to the team and support network that has been instrumental in making you the player you are today?
Kevin Anderson: As you said, it started a very long time ago. It started with my parents, my dad who taught me growing up, my brother who played, as well. I spent a lot of time with him. Then getting into the pro side, there have been a lot of people who have worked with me along the years. As I’ve been able to improve, I’ve been able to afford a larger group traveling with me.
I’ve had my wife traveling with me full time for four or five years, which has been huge for me, and we have our dog traveling with me, as well, which I think is a really important part. We do travel so much, and we’re away from home so often, it makes it feel like it’s home a little bit, too. It’s an important break from tennis. Then, of course, on the road with me, I’ve got my coach, my own private physiotherapist. Back home, I have another coach who coaches me and also does all my racquets. I have a fitness trainer. I have a mental coach. It’s a pretty big team. I feel like I do a great job learning from each of them, and at the end of the day, it’s up to me to go out there and put it all into action.