CAPE TOWN – South Africa's two-time Major finalist Kevin Anderson has shaken off his injury woes and has arrived in Australia with a solid pre-season under his belt.
Anderson has emerged fit and strong after a miserable 2019 in which the former world No 5 saw his ranking plummet to 91 after a prolonged period of inactivity following knee surgery in September.
He arrived in Australia on Monday and he will spearhead South Africa's challenge in the inaugural ATP Cup starting on Friday. South Africa will play their opener on Saturday in Group A against Serbia in Brisbane.
"After my knee surgery in September I’ve been very diligent about my rehab process and making sure I do the best things, with the help of my physio and fitness trainer, to get back to health in time for the 2020 season," said Anderson in an interview with the African News Agency (ANA).
"Things have been going really well. At my charity event in December, I played a set against Jesse Levine and another set with Coco Gauff against the Bryan Brothers. But I’ve been training quite hard this pre-season and very pleased with the results.
"I’m looking forward to starting with the year in Brisbane."
After the lay-off, Anderson is ready to stage his comeback alongside his fellow South Africans in a team environment.
"I’m excited about this event. It’s been a long time in planning with the ATP so it’s great to finally see it start. I think it’s going to be exciting for the players to start the year playing for their country in this new team event and then also for the fans.
"I think they’re going to enjoy the format. Obviously, for South Africa, it’s going to be a tough group for us in Brisbane, but I’m looking forward to it.
A new face in Anderson's travelling entourage will be new coach Diego Moyano, a former Argentinian professional.
"Diego Moyano had been with the USTA (United States Tennis Association) Player Development program for a very long time and did some great work there. When I was looking to add a new coach to my team for travelling purposes. I have worked and am still working with Jay Bosworth, who is based in South Florida.
"When I heard he was available, we did a trial period and we worked well together. So, I’m looking forward to being on the road with him."
Although Anderson has been a noticeable absentee from SA's Davis Cup team in recent years as a result of a busy international schedule, he has taken a keen interest in local tennis. A few months ago, he was named as the official ambassador for a SA schools tennis championship.
He will return to local action for the first time since 2011 for an exhibition match against South Africa's rising star Lloyd Harris in Soweto on February 2.
"I’ve always been proud to fly the South African flag next to my name at international tennis competitions, and hopeful my successes on court will inspire the next generation of SA tennis stars.
"When I’m able to make it back to South Africa I always make a point of visiting schools to speak to the children about my own experiences and answer questions they may have.
"I think Lloyd and I have a unique opportunity to impact the youth in our nation, and it is important to me that we work to grow the game foster young talent back at home.
The tennis facility in Soweto is named the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre and Anderson's pending visit there will strike a chord with an accolade he was accorded earlier in December. Anderson was honoured with the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award at the 2019 ATP Awards for supporting several charities, notably in USA and Africa.
Arthur Ashe, the late African American tennis player who won Major singles and doubles titles, founded the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Jabavu, Soweto, in 1976. In subsequent years he maintained a strong interest in SA tennis and among other things he helped players by raising scholarships and those who toured America.
"Arthur Ashe is a legend in so many capacities, not just what he did for tennis in South Africa but tennis as a whole. It’s an honour to receive the humanitarian award from the ATP that bears his name. I think that fact makes it even more special.
"In the past, I participated in tennis exhibitions at a club in the Chicago area called College Park Athletic Club. These exhibitions raised money for Spark Ventures which helps lift communities out of poverty in Zambia.
“Their work is inspiring and although I’ve never been there personally, I’m proud to have played a small part in their mission."
There has been a dramatic upswing in the way tennis has been run under the leadership of Richard Glover who was appointed CEO of Tennis SA in 2016. He has stabilized and revitalized the organization at many levels of the game.
"I think it would be excellent for South Africa to continue to add tournaments within our borders.
"It wasn’t that long ago that I competed in and won the ATP 250 South African Open in my hometown of Johannesburg. It was my first tour-level victory and I have fond memories of the event.
"I know adding Challengers back at home is a big priority for South African tennis and I hope they can continue to do so."
Tennis SA recently appointed Jeff Coetzee as its first-ever Director of Tennis and Anderson believes it's a step in the right direction.
"I think it’s great that we have a Director of Tennis now. I have a lot of respect and admiration for Jeff, and I believe it’s a very well-deserved designation for him. Hopefully Jeff can draw on his playing and coaching experiences to the benefit of South African tennis."
And finally, what are Anderson's career goals for 2020? "My biggest goal is to get back into the Top 5."