The story of David and Goliath has been applied to sports for years. Rarely though is David 6’8'' with one of the greatest serves in the world. But that’s exactly what Kevin Anderson is.
Two days after knocking off former world No. 3 Nikolay Davydenko in straight sets, Anderson pulled off another upset Friday afternoon, defeating Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, the world’s 24th-ranked player at the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne.
The South African native’s incredible rise amongst the tennis ranks continues during his breakout season—knocking off two of the biggest names in tennis in back-to-back matches.
Only two months after winning his first ever tournament at the South African Open, he’s making a run to capture the Sony Ericsson, going toe-to-toe with established player after established player, with his confidence at an all-time high.
“I think it’s just continuing learning and growing and improving,” explained Anderson to SonyEricssonOpen.com. “You know, this year has been good. I’ve had some good results. But even still, I’ve learned a lot this year, you know, and it’s only sort of—you know good results, but I have had some pretty disappointing results as well.”
The Sony Ericsson has been a haven of success for Anderson, who picked up his first victory over a top-10 opponent in his career back in 2008 when he defeated Novak Djokovic.
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Three years after establishing himself on the tennis scene at the tournament, he’s now trying to enter the upper echelon.
“I just have to keep working hard,” Anderson said to the same tournament's website. “You know this time last year I think the biggest difference is just the comfort of playing anybody in the world.”
Anderson first came to America in 2004, playing tennis for the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, already separating him from the pack of many tennis players.
Unlike many of the major sports in America, there is no college minimum for tennis, meaning many of the world’s top players never attend university. But for Anderson, the decision to play in college was a no-brainer.
“For me, it was definitely the right decision going to college,” exclaimed Anderson. “I think I improved quite a lot in the States, not just on the court, but also off the court. It’s such an ideal setup the way it’s set up, playing matches in the beginning and I was able to play quite a bit of pro events during the summer.”
Anderson’s time at Illinois lead him to not only improve his game, but also better understand American culture, which included him becoming a major basketball fan while at school.
“It was fun," he told SonEricssonOpen.com "You know I had a great time at Illinois, and there were a few of my friends actually out in the stands watching me today.”
His expanded basketball knowledge has even landed him at the top of the March Madness bracket amongst the world’s top tennis players.
“Come a long way since coming here a few years ago,” said Anderson with a laugh. “All my Final Four teams are still in. I’ve got Kansas winning it.”
Things are looking good these days for Anderson, whose newfound comfortability has finally allowed him to begin to reach the potential everybody knew he had.
His sophomore season (2005-2006) saw him win the doubles national championship, and he helped lead Illinois to the national runner-up the next season before forgoing his senior year.
Anderson’s fortitude has helped him believe that no matter the opponent, he now has a chance to win every time he takes the court.
“I’m walking out whether I’m playing Federer or Nadal or Davydenko or anybody, doesn’t really matter, I’m just going to go out there and play my game.”