July 6, 2018 / 1:46 PM / 4 months ago

African standard bearer Anderson still going it alone

LONDON (Reuters) - It used to be said Andy Murray required broad shoulders to carry British hopes at Wimbledon but spare a thought for Kevin Anderson — a lone standard bearer for a whole continent.

Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - July 6, 2018 South Africa's Kevin Anderson celebrates winning the third round match against Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge

The 32-year-old was one of only two players from the vast African continent to start in the men’s singles at the grasscourt Grand Slam this year — the other being Tunisian veteran Malek Jaziri who lost in the first round.

In the women’s draw, Africa’s sole representative, Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, won a round but Anderson, now based in the United States, has, as usual, been flying solo since.

He is doing a fine job too and on Monday he will face charismatic Frenchman Gael Monfils for a place in his first Wimbledon quarter-final at the 10th time of asking.

At Flushing Meadows last September Anderson became the first African to reach a Grand Slam singles final since fellow South African Kevin Curran played Boris Becker at Wimbledon in 1985.

He has carried that form into this year and in a 6-3 7-5 7-5 defeat of experienced German Philipp Kohlschreiber on Friday he looked capable of pushing deep into the second week.

“All in all, it’s always a great feeling getting through to the second week here at Wimbledon,” Anderson, who also reached the fourth round at Roland Garros, said.

“I have done it a few times. One of my first goals was try and take it a step further and reach the quarters.

“Definitely looking forward to the opportunity on Monday.”

Anderson, who commands huge respect on the Tour, acknowledges he is a novelty these days — an Africa-born player who makes the big time in tennis.

South Africa has produced the likes of Curran, Wayne Ferreira and twice Australian Open champion Johan Kriek (who became an American citizen in 1982) while Morocco once boasted the talents of Hicham Arazi and Younes El Aynaoui.

Aside from Jaziri only one other African man is in the top 200 and the next-best South African after world number eight Anderson is 221st-ranked Lloyd Harris.

TOUGH LANDSCAPE

Anderson said he hopes his results can provide a spark for others to follow, but admits the landscape is tough.

“I have been at the top of South African tennis for pretty much a decade now,” he told reporters.

“I have always said my biggest hope is that players, especially junior players in South Africa, watch me on TV or wherever, and I’m a sort of source of inspiration for them to pick up the game of tennis, to pursue it.

“When I’m back in South Africa I try my best to get out to the schools, I give a lot of talks. I try and just encourage players to take up tennis.

“But there’s no hiding the fact that tennis in Africa has really struggled over the past few years.”

Africa is the only continent without mass representation in the Grand Slam tournaments with Asia now starting to catch up with the traditional European and North American strongholds.

Anderson said it is simply a matter of resources.

“It’s a very tough sport and I think the biggest obstacle is just that there is very little professional tennis in the whole continent,” he said. “In order to get exposure you have to travel to Europe, to the States.

“On the back of that comes financing. A lot of African countries just can’t afford that. It’s prohibitively expensive to do it. I know for myself coming from a wealthier country of South Africa it was still very tough.”

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond

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