JOHANNESBURG – Tennis South Africa are accelerating their development initiatives as they seek to take advantage of the attention the sport is currently garnering in the wake of Kevin Anderson’s unexpected run to the final of the US Open.
Though he fell short in that match on Sunday night to one of the sport’s all time greats, Rafael Nadal, Anderson’s achievement is worthy of celebration.
And TSA are right to jump on the bandwagon, even if it means – as the organisation’s CEO Richard Glover said on Monday – that some of their plans have to be brought forward.
“To be honest, TSA would be better prepared to leverage on Kevin’s success in 12 months’ time rather than now, but we are not complaining.
“Kevin’s success at the US Open could prove to be rocket fuel for our sport… it is now up to TSA to finish rebuilding that rocket,” said Glover.
Glover said the first of a number of Development Centres will be opened in the Western Cape next month, with others to follow in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.
Also, in October, squads in age groups ranging from 12 to 18 will be selected to attend regular training camps, where they will work with some of the country’s top coaches as part of individual training programmes designed to develop them as players.
Even without Anderson’s attention-grabbing run in New York, Glover said tennis in South Africa was starting to turn around its fortunes, having signed new sponsorships that will help to create monthly financial packages for the Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams.
Lessons were also taken from how TSA, which for years were beset by administrative in-fighting, helped and did not help Anderson in his growth as a young player.
“Having spoken to Kevin, his mother, as well as several TSA stalwarts, who have been in the system for years, I have come to conclusion that while our federation has supported Kevin more than most people realise, on balance we have not supported him enough,” said Glover.
“In short, both he and his family have made huge sacrifices to get him to where he is today. This is their triumph – not ours.”
— Kevin Anderson (@KAndersonATP) September 11, 2017
Anderson picked up a runners-up cheque of about R23.6 million for his fortnight’s work at Flushing Meadows, and rose to No 15 on the ATP rankings list released on Monday.
He is now targeting a place in the top eight with a view to qualifying to the World Tour finals, which will be played in London in November.
“I feel like when I’m taking care of the stuff I need to, the ranking will take care of itself,” said Anderson following his defeat on Sunday night.
“It’s great to sit back at the end of the week and see the jump that I have made and the spots I have been able to climb, something I can be very proud of.
“When I play my next tournament, it will be back at sort of square one in that sense. Everyone will be very determined whoever I’m playing in that match (to beat me), and regardless of what happened these two weeks, I can take confidence (out of it).
“But I’m really going to have to reset and would love to have obviously a very strong finish to the year.”
His runners-up spot in New York represented a remarkable comeback after struggling with a hip injury at the start of the year that Anderson initially thought would require surgery.
Following his US Open final appearance, Kevin Anderson has risen to 15th spot on the latest ATP men's singles rankings - issued today. 🇿🇦 pic.twitter.com/hdemXobOSM
— Tennis South Africa (@TennisSA) September 11, 2017
The respect he holds among fellow professionals was highlighted by his conqueror Nadal, who took time to praise Anderson’s work ethic.
“You are a great example for kids and the rest of the tour... you had tough injuries, and came back better than ever,” said the legendary Spaniard.
Nadal also indicated just what an achievement it was for Anderson to even make a final of a Grand Slam in the current era, which has been dominated by three of the greatest players the sport has known.
“In my career, I have been involved on different rivalries. I feel lucky to be part of all of them in some way,” said Nadal.
“In another way, I have been in an era that three players achieve 19 (Grand Slam titles, Roger Federer), 16 (himself) and 12 (Novak Djokovic).
“That’s a lot, no?
“There is a remarkable part of the history of our sport. So that means (it) was difficult for everybody to win titles in this era.”