CAPE TOWN – “Honestly right now, I’m going to put that on hold a little bit. This is very special for me – it’s my first time ever being here.”
That was the response from South Africa’s newest sporting hero, Kevin Anderson, after being asked about his next opponent at the US Open after pulling off a thrilling four-set victory over American Sam Querrey in the quarter-finals early on Wednesday morning.
One could hardly blame the giant right-hander, who has now emulated Wayne Ferreira in reaching a Grand Slam semi-final with a 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (9-11) 6-3 7-6 (9-7) triumph on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court at Flushing Meadows in New York.
The 31-year-old slugger from Johannesburg has had years of fighting hard in the Grand Slams, but has only a lone quarter-final appearance to show for it – at the 2015 US Open, where he’d beaten Andy Murray in the fourth round.
Now he has finally made the breakthrough to the last-four, becoming the first South African since Ferreira in 2003 (at the Australian Open) to go so far in a Grand Slam.
“This is incredible. At this stage, playing on one of the most famous courts of the world in a night session… Getting through, it just feels absolutely fantastic,” Anderson said in an on-court TV interview.
“I just wanted to thank everybody. I know it’s two o’clock in the morning (in New York) and you guys stuck out here. So really, really appreciate it, thank you!
“It was really tough (in the second set tie-breaker). (Querrey) had it at 6-1, and the next minute it was 6-6, and I had a pretty easy ball to actually get myself a set-point.
“That’s how tennis is, and I work really hard to try and play each point at a time, try to reset. That definitely paid big dividends for me tonight.”
Apart from his usual booming serve, which saw Anderson smash 22 aces to Querrey’s 20, the 2.03m South African’s groundstrokes also proved to be a vital weapon as he produced some sparkling forehand winners.
The official statistics show that Anderson fired 67 winners to just 44 by Querrey, and won 60 percent of the points on his second serve compared to 55 by his opponent.
Now it’s the in-form Pablo Carreno Busta up next for the 28th-seeded Anderson, with the Spaniard having not dropped a single set at the US Open thus far.
The 26-year-old Busta’s toughest opponents have been veteran Frenchman Nicolas Mahut and Canadian teen star Denis Shapovalov, and the 12th seed may be regarded as the favourite in the semi-final as he is reached the quarter-finals at the French Open this year, and is ranked 19th in the world to Anderson’s 32.
But the tall South African is not thinking about Friday’s encounter just yet. “Honestly right now, I’m going to put that on hold a little bit. This is very special for me – it’s my first time ever being here,” Anderson said.
“So, I will try to enjoy it a little bit, and then of course, it’s time to get ready. Pablo is a great player, I’ve also played him during the summer and he’s had an unbelievable year.
“It’s going to be a tough battle, and I’m just so excited to be competing at a semi-final at a Grand Slam.”
In the other half of the draw, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are on a collision course for the second semi-final.
But first they have to get through their respective quarter-finals later on Wednesday, with third seed Federer facing a tough task against 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro, while No 1 seed Nadal takes on Andrey Rublev of Russia.