With prize-money for the year standing at nearly US$3.25 million ahead of the last Grand Slam tournament of 2018, the US Open starting tomorrow, it’s been a fruitful period for the big South African, who along with Danish star Caroline Wozniacki was given the honour of ringing the closing bell at the NYSE.
The 32-year-old is back in the Big Apple where he announced himself a year ago as being fit to operate among the sport’s élite with a stunning run to the final at Flushing Meadow.
Seeded 28th, Anderson took advantage of a draw that opened up for him – as higher seeds like Marin Cilic and Alex Zverev fell by the wayside – to qualify for the final, where he lost in straight sets to Rafael Nadal.
Anderson has built on the confidence gained from that maiden Grand Slam final appearance and has had arguably his best year as a professional. He’s qualified for four tournament finals, including most memorably Wimbledon, won the New York Open in February and also played in the semi-final of the recent Masters 1000 event in Toronto.
In addition he’s played in two other Masters 1000 quarter-finals this year, on clay, just to further underline why he is deserving of his élite status.
Anderson’s performances have attracted the attention of some of the most acclaimed players in the history of the sport.
Australian legend Rod Laver told Reuters this past week that he was among his top picks to win the US Open, along with Novak Djokovic and Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro.
“Kevin Anderson has got a lot to be proud of,” John McEnroe, a four-time US Open champion and now a renowned TV commentator, said.
“He came here and got to the final of the US Open last year and he backed it up with a great run at Wimbledon.”
If Anderson has grown frustrated with his thwarted Grand Slam title efforts, it has hardly shown ahead of the tournament.
“The experience and the confidence last year’s tournament gives me is very valuable,” he told CBS Sports. “I’m just really excited to get out there and give myself another good shot.”
Anderson is currently ranked fifth by the ATP and will hold that same seeding for the US Open.
The South African needs to tread carefully, however. Because of his run to the final last year, he has a large amount of ranking points – 200 – to defend, which will have an impact on whether he can qualify for the year-end ATP World Tour Finals, the prestigious tournament reserved for the top eight players of 2018 which will be played in London.
Anderson has accumulated 3270 points this year and is seventh in the ATP’s Race to London, which is currently topped by Nadal. An early exit at the US Open could leave him in jeopardy of dropping out of contention for the World Tour Finals.
Anderson was handed a tricky draw on Thursday, opening against American Ryan Harrison, a 26-year-old ranked 56th in the world.
Harrison beat Anderson the last time the pair met in Tokyo last year, and given it’s his home Slam will be keen to prove a point. But he’s also been inconsistent this year, the very opposite of Anderson, who will again fancy a run into the second week.
Anderson is in Nadal’s quarter of the draw, meaning the two could have a rematch of last year’s final in the quarter-finals. To get that far though, Anderson has to overcome some tough opponents which could include French Open runner-up Dominic Thiem and the flamboyant young Canadian Denis Shapovalov.
Anderson is not the only one flying the South African flag in the main draw of the men’s singles; on Friday, 21-year-old Capetonian Lloyd Harris qualified for his first Grand Slam main draw.
“I really felt confident coming into the qualifying here in New York after a great couple of weeks where I won my first Challenger. I am really feeling good about my game and I am proud of myself that I have kept the momentum going” said Harris.
He will face French veteran Gilles Simon, who has not played at any of the pre-US Open events, and in fact last played a month ago on clay.
Harris, who has played a lot of matches lately, must fancy his chances tomorrow, despite Simon’s greater experience.
Meanwhile, Kgothatso Montjane, who garnered the country’s attention when she made it to the semi-finals of the wheelchair event at Wimbledon, will also compete in New York this week.
The 32-year-old secured about R1.5 million from 10 different sponsors to help fund her trip.
“Going into this tournament it is going to be tough as usual. The Grand Slams is only the best in the world and it is going to be challenging,” she said.@shockerhess