Anderson: Hope to break into top five this year

World no. 12 Kevin Anderson will be making his debut at the Aircel Chennai Open 2016 and the big-serving South African will start the new season on the back of a career high top-10 ranking in 2015, and a maiden entry into the quarter-finals of the US Open 2015 after defeating Andy Murray.

Kevin Anderson is the first South African to be ranked in the top 10 since Wayne Ferreira in May 1997.   -  Getty Images

World no. 12 Kevin Anderson will be making his debut at the Aircel Chennai Open 2016 and the big-serving South African will start the new season on the back of a career high top-10 ranking in 2015, and a maiden entry into the quarter-finals of the US Open 2015 after defeating Andy Murray.

It has been a great season for Anderson, winning his third ATP title at the Winston-Salem hard court tournament in August defeating Pierre-Hugues Herbert in straight sets 6-4, 7-5. Earlier in the year, he took on Novak Djokovic in a gruelling five-setter at Wimbledon, winning the first two sets in what stunned the tennis world.

The year then saw Anderson have a fine run at the US Open where he shocked Murray in a four-setter before losing to Stan Wawrinka in the quarter finals.

Standing tall at a staggering 6’8”, Anderson will be looking to avenge his defeat with a possible clash with defending champion Wawrinka at Chennai. It is interesting to note that Anderson-Wawrinka have a 4-4 head-to-head between the two, indicating stiff competition for the crowd-favourite Wawrinka, who is on course for a hat-trick of wins at Chennai this year.

You reached a career high top-10 ranking this year. How has the season been?

2015 was obviously a great year. I achieved a few of my long-standing goals, which is very rewarding. I'm still working hard to achieve some of my other goals like reaching the top five in the world rankings, and qualifying for the World Tour Finals. My results last year left me optimistic that my hard work will allow me to continue to improve.

You took on Novak Djokovic in an epic battle at Wimbledon, winning the first two sets in what stunned the tennis world. What was going through your mind during the match?

Obviously it was a good position to be in when I was two sets up, but I knew I needed to focus on my own game and not let the gravity of the moment weigh on me. Novak is a great competitor, and his will to win is practically unmatched. Although the match proved disappointing in the end, it was a great honor to hear Novak call it one of the most difficult Wimbledon matches he has ever played.

You made it to the quarter-finals of the US Open after defeating Andy Murray. Tell us about your experience.

Reaching the quarterfinals of a Slam had been a goal of mine for a very long time. It was a great match with wonderful energy at the US Open. I felt the quality of tennis was high, so to get that win under my belt and finally reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal was an excellent hurdle to overcome. It was also special having so many of my friends and coaches there supporting me for such a momentous experience.

You also became the first South African to reach the US Open Quarters after Wayne Ferreira in 1992. What does this milestone mean to you?

Wayne was a phenomenal player, and I still have a long way to go to match his tennis achievements. He was someone I really looked up to as a young South African, so it is definitely cool to think that some of the youth in SA might be holding me in the same regard. I truly hope my results will inspire a new generation of tennis players and fans in South Africa the way Wayne did; that would be really special to me.

Along with Karlovic and Isner, you are part of the first trio on the ATP Tour to pass 1,000 aces in a singles season!

My ace count is not a stat I keep track of during the year, so that was definitely a fun milestone to learn I had achieved. It indicates not only strong serving performance, but also a strong overall season to be playing enough matches to rack up that many serves. I'm very proud of it.

How much of an advantage does your 6'8” height give you in tennis?

Height is a funny thing in tennis because it definitely helps the serve but it can hinder agility and movement. I think I have to spend a lot more time working on movement and flexibility than some of my shorter colleagues. That being said though, a tall person can improve upon those weaknesses with hard work, while a shorter person can never gain the advantages of a taller serve. In that respect, I think I'm very lucky to have such tall genes!

You are making your debut at the Aircel Chennai Open. What are your thoughts on playing in India’s ATP tournament?

Although it is my first ATP event in India, I have played in the country during 2014. My wife and I had a blast in India the first time; the people are wonderful, the tennis fans are some of the best, and the food is excellent. I'm really excited to be playing in the Aircel Chennai Open.

What are your goals for 2016?

My biggest goal is to put myself in position to make the World Tour Finals in London at the end of 2016. Of course, improving my results along the way will help me to reach this goal such as making quarter-finals or better at Slams and Master Series events, and notching a few more tournament wins throughout the year.

Do you always discuss sports at the dinner table since you belong to a family of sportspersons?

No, we try to disconnect from tennis when we can. It is not always possible to keep it from coming up in conversation, but I think too much focus on tennis all the time can actually be a hindrance, everyone needs a break.

Your wife Kelsey has played on the women’s golf team at Illinois. Has she taught you a thing or two about the game and do you play it during your free time?

Kelsey and I really enjoy playing golf together when we have the time. We have found it tough to play frequently though because we are always travelling for tennis and rarely bring our golf clubs. Kelsey is great at giving me tips and advice on the golf course, but her dad is a PGA Master Professional, so he is usually my go-to if I need a lesson or a tune-up. Kelsey can still beat me, but I am pretty competitive, so we will see if that holds up in the long run. My personal golf goal is to at least match her abilities one day!