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Tennis | Wimbledon

Kevin Anderson bares all

Q. How did you feel when you were down 10 sets to zero?

KEVIN ANDERSON: In our overall record, I didn't think of it like that. I felt the first set obviously wasn't great for me. I was a little bit unsettled starting the match out. I thought I settled down much better in the second set. Even though I lost it in a tiebreak, I felt I played a much, much better set of tennis.

Obviously in the third set, I just tried to compete as hard as I could. I was able to, you know, hold serve throughout. Obviously had that one match point, but played a good point. Was able to get that break.

I feel like once I did that, I really settled down well and felt pretty comfortable out there.

Q. Were you brave to attack in that match point, do you think?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, I mean, I think I remember the point pretty well. The ball was there to be hit. Went after it. Had a good first serve, as well. By that stage, I felt I was hitting the ball well. Obviously it was important for me to get through those tight moments. But I feel like my commitment to the kind of tennis I wanted to play throughout the match, it got definitely better as the match progressed.

Q. Given the setting, the head-to-head, was that your single biggest victory in your career?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, I haven't thought about it too much in the broader context of things. It felt great to get that match. I mean, I think the toughest thing players face when going out playing somebody like Roger in this setting is giving yourself a chance. I feel like the times that I've played him before, or other guys sort of with his ranking and history, I haven't really allowed myself to play.

The first set was an example of that. I was really proud of myself the way I was able to relax, play my game. That's a big goal that I've had. Even if I'd lost that match in three sets or four sets, I still actually made some progress on that front. That was a good plus.

Obviously it's infinitely better winning that match. But overall obviously a lot of positives to take from it.

Q. I know in recent seasons you talked about being more demonstrative, how that can help you channel the energy. You seemed flat line on the outside. What was the thinking there?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, it's interesting. As players, you always look to evolve. I think from an emotional standpoint, with my team, we've sort of evolved a little bit more. I feel like I'm able to harness some of that energy without being as outgoing with it. That's been a positive step forward for me.

I feel like the benefits I've had from, you know, say doing that in the past was still there today. That's very encouraging for me. Especially with these long matches, saving your energy, especially emotional energy, is very important. I think that's something I learned a little bit, especially at the French Open this year when I played Schwartzman in the fourth round. I needed to make a little bit of an adjustment in terms of the amount of emotional energy that I was expending.

I feel like this whole tournament has been a really – I've been in a very good place with that.

Q. Imagine this win is going to get a huge amount of coverage back in South Africa. You spoke before about wanting to be a flag bearer for South African tennis. What impact do you hope this win will have back home and also on your ongoing Wimbledon run?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, already gotten tons of messages from support back home. Obviously at this sort of event, playing against an opponent like Roger, as you said, is going to have a lot of coverage. Again, I really hope it's an example of sticking to your dreams and keep believing in yourself.

I always say I was in the same position, it's not easy coming from South Africa, it's very far from the tennis scene.

In terms of my overall Wimbledon, it's definitely a win that means a lot to me today. It's tough in the sense that I've got to get ready for my next match. I can't dwell on it too long. Obviously a lot of emotions going on. You try to calm down as quickly as possible. Already started my recovery process.

As I said in the beginning of the tournament, getting through to the quarters was a big goal of mine. But also putting myself in these positions where hopefully I'm able to get another step forward and be playing on Sunday.

Q. If you wouldn't mind talking a little bit about Milos and John. And has your American citizenship ever come through?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, I mean, obviously regardless of whether it's Milos or John, both incredibly good servers. Demonstrates right now, on serve right now, really close tiebreak sets (referring to the current scoreline). I've played both of them quite a few times. It's always close matches with them.

Fortunately for me, I'm through, so I can sit back and watch. Definitely will take today to sort of reflect on today's match, have to recover, and get ready for my next match.

What was the second?

Q. I know you applied for dual citizenship. Has that ever happened?

KEVIN ANDERSON: It's still in the process.

Q. You seemed quite fit throughout the whole match right through to the end. What are some of the things you've done to maintain and increase your fitness?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, I mean, I think you always sort of are learning as you go along. Even in the French, after my fourth-round match, it was a long match, I had sort of an issue that's plagued me before. We made a few adjustments this week. It's been working well. I have a great team with me. Obviously spend a lot of time with my physio.

A lot of the work happened obviously before the tournament. I think one of the keys, especially in these Grand Slams, because they're two weeks in length, you have to try and keep up with some of your off-court maintenance, especially I think the strength work.

I think sometimes in the past I've done a lot going into the tournament. During the tournament, you know, you sort of back off a little bit. I've actually been a little bit more aggressive this tournament in terms of some of the strength I've done on the off days, which I think has been beneficial.

I think just the more experience you get, just managing these sort of matches, managing your body better. There's no, like, single key you can identify. I think really a whole host of things that come into play.

Q. Was there a point when you were perhaps coming back from the knee problems a couple years ago, maybe working in the gym, fitness work, where you almost lost confidence that you could get back, but the perseverance comes good on days like today when you're still stronger after four-and-a-quarter hours?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, it was definitely a pretty tough time for me, 2016, beginning of 2017. I think what definitely helped me was pretty soon, early on in 2017, I felt I started hitting the ball really well on the practice court, and I had been for a while.

I think I was sort of on the border of actually going on to Australia. I decided not to go. I think in hindsight that was a great decision. That was something I learned from 2016 where I constantly tried to get back into competition too quickly. It just took me a little bit of time to find sort of my legs in the competitive atmosphere.

I feel that sort of started to change towards the end of the clay court season last year. As I said, it obviously helps being able to stay healthy because the momentum you build, you can continue that much easier.

I'm always very highly motivated, sort of intrinsically myself. I have a great team behind me. Even the days that felt tough, there was never a question in my mind of where I wanted to get back to.

Of course, days like today makes that whole process a little bit more special.

Q. I know tennis players tend not to put limits on what they can achieve at a tournament. Have you surprised yourself at all over the past 10 months of high performance, big results?

KEVIN ANDERSON: I guess yes and no. Part of it is I've always believed that I have this in me, I mean, to constantly get better. As I said earlier, very motivated to keep improving. I feel like it's very rewarding seeing those improvements take place, week in, week out, especially over the last 52 weeks. I really have felt a lot of improvements in that time.

As I say, staying healthy, don't want to repeat myself, but that's such a big key, especially for tennis players, obviously any athlete. That helps a lot.

My team believes in me a lot. My family believes in me a lot. I think I've started to believe in myself a lot more. Coming into this event definitely felt just a more quiet confidence of going further in it than maybe I had in the past.

Obviously with matches like today, that definitely assists that process, too.

Q. If I have it right, even when you were down in the scoreboard, you were out there saying to yourself, This is my day. How do you do that when you're losing, especially to the greatest player of all time? Talk about your mental strength.

KEVIN ANDERSON: As I sort of alluded to a little bit earlier. I feel the few times I've played him in the past, walked onto the court without the necessary belief that I needed to to get through the match.

Without doing it on purpose, obviously with the ranking system, you sort of peg people at different spots. I mean, obviously there's no easy matches. But if you play somebody maybe ranked lower than you, you have a bit more natural confidence in the match. In tough times you can sort of rely on, Hey, I feel like I'm a better tennis player, I'm going to get through.

I felt it was a little bit tough saying that obviously today against Roger. But I changed that phrase and said, What's happened in the past is in the past. All I need to worry about is today.

I felt like I was just trying to keep myself very highly motivated, a lot of belief in myself, said, Today is going to be my day.

Obviously it came very close to it not being my day. I still think if had I lost that match point, as I said earlier, I made a few steps in the right direction. Obviously getting through it, I feel like I can take bigger steps.

Especially in the first set when it was really close, I kept on telling myself that, I'm in this match right now. As I said, I felt like today was going to be my day. I was able to keep with that as much as I could. I guess in the end I was right.

Q. In situations like today when you find yourself two sets to love down, then when you had to keep serving to stay in the match, how difficult was it to stay in the moment and not think about how close you were to losing and how close you were to winning?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, I mean, in the third set wasn't thinking too much of it. I just said, I'm down two sets to love, let me keep fighting. I felt I was playing better tennis, so that was motivating for me as well to keep at it. Facing off that match point, then getting a break the next minute, I'm like, I've got the third set in the bag.

Almost felt in the fourth set, because I felt I was playing much, much better, actually playing really high-quality tennis, having a few sniffs on his serve, almost felt my mind wondering, Well, maybe I can do this, and put myself in a fifth set. Almost flashes of what it would be like winning the match.

I felt I did a good job of getting rid of those thoughts as well and just focusing in on the moment, because obviously it was very close in the end.

Then in the fifth set, yeah, maybe it's a little bit tougher being down a break the whole time - not down a break, obviously down a game in the serving. I think what helped me was I started off each game pretty well for the most part. There were a couple games I had to dig out of a small hole at Love-30 or Love-15. It's always nice getting those first few points. For most of the time I was able to do that.

Q. You touched earlier on Milos and John as kind of a duo. Could you address them as individuals. What do you consider to be the specific challenges with John?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, John I think has got arguably one of the best serves of all time on the tour. Especially in the last few months what's really impressive is just his first-serve percentage as well, never mind how accurate and big the serve is. But he's very consistent with the two. Definitely the first challenge is the serve.

I feel like he relies a lot on confidence. Especially after his win in Miami, sort of just seeing him around, watching him play matches on the practice court, I think he has a lot of confidence right now which allows him to be a bit more free from the baseline, from the back.

In the matches I've played him, obviously taking care of your serve is the first priority. It's a match that's often won on just a couple points here and there. I feel confident in sort of baseline exchanges I'd say quite a lot with John.

At the same time, because he's such a big player, has so much firepower, you just can't be too patient. You have to still be aggressive, put him on the back foot.

I think with Milos, very similar. I think John serve is a little bit better than Milos'. Moves better from the baseline, better all-court player. Again, with him, it comes down to the same thing. I mean, I have to take care of my serve games.

Even though I feel, again, comfortable with Milos from the baseline exchanges, I feel like if we just played a baseline match, I'd be pretty confident against him. Because of the nature of tennis with the serves and returns, you still have to be quite aggressive. You don't want him control the points, coming in. He comes forward very effectively.

It's going to be close. You would say Milos has a bit more experience, making the finals, being in the quarterfinals quite a few times. If I play John, it will be a first for both of us in the semis. Milos has sort of been there before. But, I mean, either way is going to be I think a close match.

Q. If you remember how excited you were when you reached the final of the US Open, compared to today, can you say when you were more excited?

KEVIN ANDERSON: I think it's quite different. At US Open, because it was pretty new being in the semis and in the finals, it was a lot of excitement, a lot of emotions. I think going into the finals, there was maybe a bit too much relief that, Hey, I'm in the finals, and didn't give myself as much of a chance to win that match from a mental side.

I learned some valuable lessons throughout that tournament because coming in today, obviously being in the quarterfinals here for the first time, I think the way I approached the match was a bit more with expectations that I want to keep going.

As exciting as it is, I feel like I'm doing a good job of keeping it in perspective. There's hopefully two more matches still to be played. As of right now, I'm sort of more focused on that than getting too excited about the overall picture.


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