Q&A: Kevin Anderson’s Wimbledon press conference after epic win over Isner

Time of article published Jul 14, 2018

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What an unforgettable match between Kevin Anderson and John Isner in the Wimbledon semi-final on Friday!

Anderson triumphed 26-24 in the final set after an epic that lasted six hours and 35 minutes, but still waits to see who he will face in Sunday’s final.

Novak Djokovic leads Rafael Nadal by two sets to one, but their match was suspended due to a tournament curfew on Friday night.

They will resume their battle at 12pm SA time on Saturday.

But here is a full transcript of Anderson’s post-match press conference…

QUESTION: You said after Roger, you gave yourself a bit more belief this year. Is that what got you through that exhausting match?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, I don’t know what got me through today’s match other than just a will to try to succeed, keep pushing myself.

I knew it was going to be a tough match playing John. We’ve played a few times. He’s gotten the better of me in our head-to-heads. I’ve struggled against him in certain areas. Just watching the way he played all week, I thought he was playing great tennis.

Obviously his serve is arguably one of the best of all time. It’s really tough playing him. The match was so even throughout.

I obviously felt I had a few chances in the third set serving for it. Even in that breaker, had a set point, hit a double. He played some great points.

I think one of the reasons for the double was I felt like he was being really aggressive on my serve that forced me to go for a little bit more.

Then once you’re in the fifth set, in those sort of settings, on the court for over six hours, your body, it’s really tough. You just have to try to keep going.

I tried as much as I could to just keep fighting. I take a lot of pride in that. Fortunately, I was able to find a way over the finish line.

QUESTION: Can you explain what went through your head when you fell and managed to pick up your racquet? How did you manage to think to do that?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, at that point you’re just trying to gather some energy to try and, you know, keep pushing yourself.

I felt for most of the fifth set actually, I was maybe a little bit ahead in terms of the ease of me holding serve as opposed to him. I feel like I had a few openings here and there.

By the end, we were obviously both struggling. From his serve, he was down in terms of his velocity coming through. I just tried to put as many balls as possible in the court.

Had another little opening at Love-15, hit my return, felt like I lost balance, just tried to get up. You know, obviously not a conscious thought.

I just put the racquet in my left hand and managed to hit a pretty decent shot. Obviously that ended up being pretty key for me.

Kevin Anderson was exhausted after over six hours of play against John Isner. Photo: Ben Curtis/AP

QUESTION: Can you describe how close you were to breaking point physically, what it felt like during that fifth set?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, I mean, it’s close. You’re really in a war of attrition out there. It’s way beyond a normal tennis match or tactics. I mean, it’s just who’s going to, you know, outlast each other.

It’s pretty tough in the format that we have right now, especially at slams. I mean, it’s not easy in that setting at the end.

I mean, coming through that match, obviously I’m ecstatic to be through to the finals. At the same time, you know, you feel like it should be a draw. But somebody has to win.

I was also behind in the scoreline each time, so it’s a little tougher maybe. But what I did really good each and every time, I reset really well.

I got off to good starts in the beginning of the games. Only a couple times did I have a Love-15 or 15-30.

When you’re in those settings, just getting out in front a little bit definitely makes a big difference. I was able to do that pretty consistently throughout that fifth set.

QUESTION: You just described the physical attrition. What were your emotions like during the match as it wore on and then at the end?

KEVIN ANDERSON: It’s interesting. Emotionally I felt okay. It was like, ‘Come, this return game, I’ve got this. Let me try to get a few more returns, make a push here’.

As hard as I was trying, I felt like physically it wasn’t there as much. It was sort of steadily digressing, I guess, as the match went on.

I just kept on trying to, say, up my emotional energy. That’s something I’ve been trying to do for a while.

It just was almost too difficult to do. Even when I got the break in the fifth set, I kept as calm as possible.

But, yeah, I mean, the main theme was trying to bring out more. It was a challenge, though, because a lot of the times there was a lot of hope.

The body just wasn’t responding the way that it was earlier in the match.

QUESTION: At the end?

KEVIN ANDERSON: I mean, at the end it was just such a unique match-up. I mean, that scoreline after that period of time, both of us obviously feeling it a lot, trying our best to push through.

As I said in my post-match interview, obviously I’m very pleased to get through, but at the same time definitely feel for John, as well.

It’s not easy losing matches, regardless of the scoreline, in this sort of setting, semi-finals at Wimbledon, but especially in those sort of conditions with such a close scoreline.

QUESTION: Post-match you talked about using your left hand, growing up using your left hand.

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, I just sort of – when the interviewer asked me, gave me a bit of a smile because obviously that was a pretty good point from my standpoint.

I just said when I was younger, I had elbow surgery at a pretty young age. Actually played four or five months just with my left hand.

A lot of guys with two hands can’t hit the ball left-handed.

It was interesting because I hit it pretty well. I was reflecting that I wouldn’t have thought back then that I was going to use a left-handed shot at the semi-finals of Wimbledon at. I don’t know what the score was, whatever it was when I hit it.

QUESTION: What is your normal physical recovery regime? Will it differ in this case? What have you done up to this point?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, I mean, it’s pretty unique. I mean, generally speaking, if the match is over two hours, we do, like, an active recovery.

You get on the bike for, say, 10 minutes or so. After that we do a stretch and, like, an active flush. I get into the ice tank. I eat afterwards. Then I come to press.

My physio, he was like, ‘After six hours, you need to spend another 10 minutes on the bike’. I actually went straight into the ice tank, then I did the stretching.

I actually ate before stretching, as well. Obviously trying to get sort of food and nutrition back in my body is a challenge because you definitely don’t feel like eating, but you have to somehow force it down.

When I get back today, we have to sort of see.

Obviously I need a lot of treatment in terms of getting the body back balanced and stuff, but at the same time, obviously sleep is important, too.

QUESTION: What about tomorrow?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, I mean, I think we’re going to play it by ear, see how I feel, see how my body reacts in the morning.

My feet are sore, they’re swollen. The legs are pretty jelly-like.

I mean, ideally I’d like to get out and hit for, say, maybe 30 minutes, just keep the eye in, try to keep the same sort of routines that we’ve been having.

But I’ve never played a match this long, so it will be something we’ll have to see how things go tomorrow.

QUESTION: This may be an odd question, but I noticed both in the quarter-finals and today you were wearing black compression shorts. Has anybody at the All England Club, the officials, approached you about that?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, I mean, in the beginning the first match or two, I’ve been having sort of a reoccurring hamstring issue over the last 18 months.

My understanding is when there’s a medical device, it is of colour, and these aren’t your normal compression shorts, they are pretty specialised, so that’s why they approved it and allowed me to wear it.

QUESTION: You’ve reached the finals. Talk about this breakthrough, how it happened, what it means to you.

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, along the way there’s sort of mini-breakthroughs. In terms of a broad picture, making finals of Grand Slams, there’s obviously a huge breakthrough.

Along the way, there were many small breakthroughs – making top 10 in 2015, beating Andy Murray in the round of 16 at the US Open, almost beating Novak here, being up two sets to love, losing very close in the fifth set.

Then getting injured in 2016 was tough. I mean, I think the biggest thing as I try to sort of say, I don’t feel like there’s massive secrets. I work really hard. I have good goals.

I’m always looking to improve. I’ve got a great team behind me. I have a lot of support. I feel like, as I’ve been saying, some of my best tennis I feel is still ahead of me.

Look at the game, I think there’s still areas I can do better, improve both physically, mentally, emotionally.

I think more than anything, I’ve just really trusted the process. There’s ups and downs. Even in the last 12 months, I’ve made finals of US Open and now Wimbledon.

But at the same time, I’ve lost 7-6 in the third twice in Indian Wells and Miami.

I was two sets to love up and served for it twice at French Open to make quarter-finals. There’s been ups and downs even in the last little while.

I’m just always looking at learning, keep improving. I feel like that’s probably one of my biggest strengths, is my ability to sort of keep at it, keep my head up.

It’s not easy at times. That’s what I just keep on doing.

Hopefully I’ll be able to keep it up because there’s still a lot that I want to play for in terms of achievements.

QUESTION: Will it be a problem coming back in 40 hours?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, I mean, obviously it’s not going to be easy. It wouldn’t be ideal.

Obviously I’d like to have been done a little bit earlier in terms of my recovery, playing against two of the greatest players of all times (Nadal and Djokovic).

I don’t know what’s happening out there now. It’s tough on them as well.

When you’re planning, you’re scheduling, you’re second on after 1, you don’t think you’re getting on at 8pm. It’s tough on them, too.

I mean, all I can do is control what I can control, do my best at getting as recovered as possible.

Starting this week off, I came in here with a goal of firstly beating my best result, but at the same time putting myself in this position.

At the US Open I was in the finals. Maybe I felt sort of my crowning achievement was actually getting to the finals.

Definitely hungry to go one step further.

I’m going to obviously have to pay a lot of attention to my recovery to try and give myself the best shot possible.

QUESTION: You pushed this match quite late. How much attention will you now pay to what’s going on? Or do you prefer to switch off?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, I mean, obviously I’ll have an eye out on what’s going on. It’s not going to be my primary focus, watching them, pick up notes.

My coach will obviously be doing that for me, so we can chat about it tomorrow.

I’m not sure how long they can play for, so it will be interesting if they do finish today or not.

Obviously I’m in a nicer spot that I’ve put myself through to the final. I do get to recover. Obviously it was a very long and taxing match. I’m going to be more focused on what I need to do.

QUESTION: You said in the flash interview you felt this match should provoke a debate about final-set tie-breaks. What would you like to see happen?

KEVIN ANDERSON: I mean, there’s no secret. I think if you ask the players, when you get stuck in these positions, playing such long matches, it’s very tiring.

It’s very tough, playing six-and-a-half hours, whatever we were out there for.

I personally don’t see the added value or benefit compared to, say, at the US Open where we’re playing tie-breaks in the fifth set.

I mean, it’s no different decades ago when there were no tie-breaks at all. Matches were even longer then. I think progress was made to introduce a tie-breaker.

I personally don’t see the reason not to include it now at least at all the Slams.

I mean, obviously John’s match in 2010 when it was ridiculous, I feel like a lot of people were talking about it then. Things didn’t change.

It’s also tough being out there, listening to some of the crowd. Hopefully they appreciated the battle that we faced out there against each other, John and myself.

But if you ask most of them, I’m sure they would have preferred to see a fifth-set tie-breaker, too.

They’ve paid to see two matches, and they came pretty close to only seeing one match. I don’t see the other opposing view of not incorporating a fifth-set tie-breaker at all the Slams.

QUESTION: Do you think potentially this next semi won’t be finished, will that act as a wake-up call?

KEVIN ANDERSON: I mean, let’s be honest, I was thinking that during the match. I’m, like, it gets kind of ridiculous at some point in time when it’s late in the fifth set, over 20-all.

I can feel the crowd, as I said earlier, they’re pretty antsy for us to get off the court. They’ve been watching us for over six hours.

I mean, now, it pushes these guys back, as well. It’s not ideal for them either potentially having to come back and play tomorrow.

Even if there’s a middle ground, obviously in a match like today, it’s pretty historic in terms of the length. It feels great to be part of it, coming through.

Maybe there’s a middle ground that we can include a tie-break at maybe, say, 12-all. I think that’s a fair balance.

If a match is 12-all in the fifth set, I don’t think it needs to continue. The amount of times it gets to that point is pretty rare. I think it protects the players’ health as well.

Because being out there for this length can be pretty damaging from a health standpoint, too.

QUESTION: What does it mean to you to fly the flag for South Africa in a Wimbledon final?

KEVIN ANDERSON: It feels great. Obviously there was a whole lot that happened today in terms of the length of the match.

At the end of the day, I’ve put myself into the finals of Wimbledon, which is half of a dream come true.

I mean really, most people would say it’s the biggest tournament we have. It’s very special.

Growing up in South Africa, we had kind of sort of limited access to available tournaments. Wimbledon was the most iconic event. So to be here in the finals, it’s amazing. I’ve had so much support from home.

Those fist-pumps and shouts of "C'mon!" kept Kevin Anderson going. Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

As I said after my previous match, I really hope that it’s a source of inspiration for kids, just interest in tennis.

South Africa does have a strong tennis history. We struggled over the last sort of decade or so. It’s not easy. It takes a lot of time.

But I hope maybe somebody sits here in 10, 15 years’ time and somebody asks him a question, and he says he watched me playing Wimbledon, that’s one of the reasons he’s here.

That would definitely be great for me to hear.

QUESTION: All of the semi-finalists are in their 30s. Does it speak to the evolution of training and nutrition? Do you think that will become a trend?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, I mean, obviously it will be impossible to predict.

Definitely right now, if you look at all the guys in their 30s, I think everybody is incredibly motivated. That’s step number one.

I think a while ago, if you looked at some of the guys reaching 30, they have been on tour for a while.

I think their interest and motivation to keep pushing their bodies, keep training, keep travelling the world naturally just gets a little bit less.

There’s been a resurgence where people don’t feel that way. I think when you see one person doing it, it changes the perspective and the mindset as well.

Seeing Roger (Federer) at 37 having the results he’s had, the success, what he’s still striving for, makes me feel at 32 that I’ve got a lot of years in front of me.

It changes the whole dynamic. I mean, without a doubt, as you said, the training continues. Guys take a lot of time and energy into their bodies.

I think there’s a lot to play for. There’s been I think great increases in player revenue splits in terms of prize money. Players want to keep playing. This is what we do for a living.

I think as long as we keep enjoying it, keep motivated, at least for now, I think you’ll see that trend going. Obviously after that, it will be very tough to see.

QUESTION: What are the feelings and memories from this experience today that you think will last with you?

KEVIN ANDERSON: It’s so brief. I mean, obviously two pretty special matches for me now, beating Roger Federer here at Wimbledon, 13-11, then today’s match, unbelievable match.

As much as possible, I’m trying to put that to the side a little bit because I have a finals to play in not that long a period of time.

Definitely when the tournament is finished, regardless of what happens, I think there will be a lot to think back on.

Right now, I’m as focused as possible being as ready as I can on Sunday.

I think that also involves just coming down emotionally, too.

It was a very emotional match. I was emotional after the match. I need to reset as much as possible for Sunday.

* FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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