Kevin Anderson reacts against Adrian Mannarino of France during their men's singles first round match day one of the Australian Open. Photo: Julian Smith/EPA

JOHANNESBURG – Kevin Anderson admits he briefly allowed the grip on his opening Australian Open match slip but he managed to pull it back to advance to the second round.

The world number six beat France’s Adrian Mannarino 6-3 5-7 6-2 6-1 avoiding a repeat of last year’s first-round defeat.

“It was really hot out here. I thought we were going to hit the heat rule, but no luck,” Anderson said. “I was up a break in that second set and just let it get away a little bit.

“I was happy with the way I was able to reset.”

Briton Kyle Edmund, who reached the 2018 semi-final, defeated Anderson in a five-setter in their opening match a year ago. But Anderson bounced back from that loss with aplomb experiencing the greatest season of his career.

He won two ATP World Tour titles in 2018 while he also reached the Wimbledon final and the ATP Finals.

The 32-year-old carried that form into the new year beating Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic 7-6(4) 6-7(2) 7-6(5) in the tallest ATP Tour final in the Open Era at the beginning of this month.

Anderson, who is seeded sixth at this year’s Australian Open has not made it past the first round of the first Grand Slam of the year since 2015.

He has reached the fourth round of the Australian Open on three occasions - 2013, 2014 and 2015 - and is yet to make it into the playoffs.

Kevin Anderson in action against Adrian Mannarino of France during day one of the Australian Open. Photo: Julian Smith/EPA
Kevin Anderson in action against Adrian Mannarino of France during day one of the Australian Open. Photo: Julian Smith/EPA

“Every day I push myself to get better and better,” Anderson, who lost to Rafael Nadal in the 2017 US Open final, said. “You’ve got to come out here and win the match. It is a difficult challenge but that is what it is all about.”

On Monday Anderson took a set and a break lead before Mannarino broke the South African’s serve twice to level the match on a set apiece.

Anderson recovered well overcoming both the heat and Mannarino serving 14 aces in the match to set up a second-round clash against American Frances Tiafoe on Wednesday.

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Anderson is in a bid to become the first South African Grand Slam winner since Johan Kriek won the 1981 and 1982 Australian Open titles.

South Africa’s top doubles player Raven Klaasen and New Zealand partner Michael Venus will start their Australian Open campaign against Mikhail Kukushkin and Bradley Klahn on Wednesday.

Klaasen and Venus, who also suffered a first-round defeat at the 2018 Australian Open, are fresh off a victory over iconic American brothers Mike and Bob Bryan in the semi-final of the Auckland Open.

Although they went down to Ben McLachlan and Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3 6-4 in the final they would take some confidence from their performances in the buildup.

@Ockertde Villiers

The Star

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