Follow your dreams, Anderson tells South Africa’s youngsters

The 32-year-old told himself to “keep fighting” after trailing by two sets to love against Roger Federer in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. He eventually clinched the contest.

Job done: Kevin Anderson acknowledges the crowd after overcoming Roger Federer in five sets.   -  AFP

Kevin Anderson told South African youngsters to “stick to their dreams” and follow in his footsteps after he knocked Roger Federer out of Wimbledon on Wednesday. The 32-year-old Anderson came back from two sets to love down and saved a match point to stun the eight-time champion 2-6, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5, 6-4, 13-11.

Anderson became the first South African in the Wimbledon semifinals since Kevin Curren in 1983 and just the sixth in history.

“Yeah, already gotten tons of messages from support back home,” said eighth seed Anderson. “Obviously at this sort of event, playing against an opponent like Roger is going to have a lot of coverage. 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.”

Breaking barriers

Anderson is getting used to breaking barriers.

When he finished runner-up to Rafael Nadal at the US Open last year, he was the first South African man in a Slam final since Curren at the 1984 Australian Open. He was also the oldest first-time finalist at a major since Niki Pilic at the 1973 French Open.

Read: Serena Williams serene at Wimbledon

It has been a hard road for Anderson whose ranking slumped to 67 at the end of 2016 as he battled a serious knee injury. But he has been fairly solid at the Slams ever since, making at least the last-16 at all the majors — with the exception of a first-round blip at the Australian Open this year.

“I think I was sort of on the border of actually going on to Australia (in 2017). I decided not to go. I think in hindsight that was a great decision,” he recalled. “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.”

'Let me keep fighting'

Even though he was two sets down and facing match point on Wednesday, Anderson insisted he never gave up hope. That took great self-belief, he added, knowing that he had never taken a set off 20-time major winner Federer in four previous meetings.

“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,” said Florida-based Anderson who is applying for U.S. citizenship. “Facing off that match point, then getting a break the next minute, I'm like, I've got the third set in the bag. I was actually playing really high-quality tennis, having a few sniffs on his serve, almost felt my mind wondering, Well, maybe I can do this.”

Next up for Anderson is a semifinal on Friday against either John Isner, the ninth seeded American. Anderson trails Isner 3-8 in career meetings.

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