TORONTO — Kevin Anderson was about to unleash certainly one of his scorching serves on a apply courtroom on the Rogers Cup this month when a funk-jazz band about 60 ft away all of the sudden began blaring at a remarkably excessive quantity for a tennis event.
Nonetheless carrying the hardened expression of a targeted athlete, Anderson lifted his head and stared on the band. It seemed to be a glance of disgust over a loud interruption, however when requested about it later, Anderson stated, no, it was truly an expression of admiration, not anger.
“They had been actually good,” he stated.
Although Anderson is a budding musician with a love of fine tunes, it was onerous to totally settle for his rationalization. The preliminary glare he aimed on the band appeared to talk for itself. Nonetheless, the entire episode was a very good illustration of the place Anderson, now 32, finds himself as a participant and particular person on the lads’s tennis circuit.
Lengthy thought of a part of the second tier, Anderson has raised his stage of play and narrowed his give attention to the last word prize — a Grand Slam title — whereas retaining the thoughtfulness and graciousness which have helped outline him on this planet of tennis.
That distinct combine was on show final month in his historic victory towards John Isner in their Wimbledon semifinal, one of the the biggest wins of Anderson’s career. After capturing a match that took 6 hours 36 minutes to complete and reaching his second major final, Anderson looked almost sad. He removed his hat after vanquishing Isner and frowned.
He was thrilled with the result, of course, but he knew the anguish that the loss would cause Isner, and instead of simply reveling in his own joy, he chose to show empathy for his opponent.
It was an act of true sportsmanship, but there was another element at play, too. Anderson is no longer satisfied in merely reaching a Grand Slam final. Now, it’s about winning one — when he can really celebrate. As he enters the United States Open with a career-high ranking of No. 5, his lifetime goal feels closer than ever.
“Projecting forward to the U.S. Open and next year, I just feel a little more comfortable saying, ‘I’m here to compete for the win,’” Anderson said. “I would have said it before, but now I can say it with more self-assurance.”
That belief comes at the end of a long, steady climb for Anderson, who has reached two of the last four Grand Slam finals, including last year’s U.S. Open.
Despite all the recent success, many aspects of Anderson’s life remain unchanged. He still travels with his wife, Kelsey O’Neal, and their little dog, Lady Kady, to most tournaments. As a longstanding member of the ATP players council, Anderson is actively involved in the issues affecting men’s tennis players. As a citizen of South Africa, he understands his role in the development of tennis there, too. And as an aspiring musician, Anderson often travels the globe with a small electric guitar stuffed into his racket case, and an ear open for any good jams.
In just a few years of playing the guitar, he has developed some strong moves, and through his keep in Toronto, he and Kelsey attended a Taylor Swift live performance on the Rogers Centre.
He didn’t soar on the stage to jam along with her band — he might not be at that stage but — however he does know that after his string of groundbreaking outcomes, together with a convincing win over Roger Federer within the Wimbledon quarterfinal that preceded the Isner match, he now belongs on any tennis courtroom on this planet towards any opponent.
“On this place, I really feel fairly snug,” he stated. “I’ve at all times set my targets and aspirations actually excessive and labored actually onerous systematically to get there.”
At 32, Anderson nonetheless has years left in his profession, contemplating that the sport now appears to favor veteran gamers. And after attending to the best stage, he feels he has shed the sensation of awe that he initially had in these moments.
“Final yr, for those who had stated I’d make two Grand Slam finals, it might be wonderful and loopy,” he stated. “When you do it, you notice it’s clearly an important achievement and lots of nice reminiscences, however life and tennis strikes on. I constructed it up a little bit bit an excessive amount of in some features in my thoughts of what it might be like.’’
Nonetheless, he added, “it was attention-grabbing to undergo these feelings.”
They had been actually new emotions for a participant who has spent a lot of his profession thought of a secondary participant — the sort that opponents didn’t need to face due to his booming serve and savvy courtroom consciousness however one who not often superior previous the third and fourth rounds in tournaments. In his first 33 Grand Slam occasions, Anderson reached the quarterfinals solely as soon as, on the 2015 U.S. Open.
However on his 34th and 37th makes an attempt, he was all of the sudden in unfamiliar terrain. Defying expectations, Anderson reached final yr’s U.S. Open ultimate, and fewer than a yr later he was again on the similar stage at Wimbledon.
He misplaced each finals to 2 of the game’s greats — Rafael Nadal in final yr’s U.S. Open and Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon, and each occasions he fell in straight units. Anderson stated he at all times knew he had the sport to compete with one of the best gamers on this planet, however he needed to show it to himself first.
He has lengthy been a devoted employee, however he seen that his fixed efforts to enhance each facet of his sport additionally despatched a subliminal message to himself that he didn’t but have the talent to win a significant title. Now that’s altering.
“I really feel like within the final yr or so, I used to be in a position to acknowledge simply how good of a tennis participant I’m, without having to consistently work to enhance,” he stated. “My mind-set shifted the place I noticed, I’ve received the sport and I’m simply including items, versus needing to work so onerous that you just marvel, ‘Is my sport adequate to win these tournaments?’”
As he spoke, Anderson wore the clear, self-confident expression of a premier athlete.