Kevin Anderson, What A Boytjie!

In an era where elegance has dominated over power, in an era where the “fab four” has completely monopolized the Grand Slams, in a sport where individual success counts more than team triumphs. In an era where sport has been tainted by doping scandal, tennis has managed to stay clean, bar one or two high profile suspensions. In amongst all this, there’s the man, a man who has carried the hopes of a nation. Kevin Anderson has done it all except win the ultimate prize yet – that is the Grand Slam – not that he is a failure for not doing so but why is he not getting as much admiration back home as he has garnered respect on the ATP circuit?

Kevin Anderson has been the lone flag bearer for South African tennis for some time now, where no other South African has reached a Grand Slam final in more than three decades tells its own story. Kevin Curren was the last man to do so in 1985, eventually going down to one 17 year old Boris Becker in the ’85 Wimbledon final.

That Anderson is not held in the same breath as your Ernie Elses of this world is a mystery. Yes, he has not won four majors like Els has done in golf, yes he is not a global icon like Gary Player but he does deserve credit.

Kevin Anderson has not represented South Africa in the Davis Cup for six years now. For many of his detractors, that has been his greatest “crime” but it is safe to argue tennis unlike other sports like Rugby and Cricket is an individual sport. Individual success is celebrated more than winning let’s say the Davis Cup. Realistically, with or without Anderson, South Africa are a long shot from winning it. With all due respect to the Davis Cup, competing in the Euro Africa group zone would not give you the same adrenaline as competing at the All England Club or Flushing Meadows against the world’s best tennis players.

In his own words, it is a wee bit difficult to find the balance between the two. Anderson would have to make huge sacrifices to play in the Davis Cup. Not just personal sacrifices but financial ones too. In a column for Supersport, he was quoted as saying “…the current scheduling and format of the Davis Cup would require me to make major sacrifices in the way of travel, training, rehabilitation and preparation for major tournaments, like Wimbledon”

How many people out there can genuinely sacrifice all that if they were in his shoes? He continued by saying “Ultimately, such a sacrifice would compromise my results and any hope of competitive representation for South Africa at Grand Slam tournaments. I recognize that many South Africans associate a team competition against other nations as the ultimate way to show national pride”

Yes, tennis is not the most popular sport in the country hence the lack of interest amongst many a South African. We must cut Anderson some slack, his success is our success, individual success in tennis means much more than winning the Davis Cup.

He could have chosen to play as an American because of the years he has spent there but instead he is proudly carrying the South African flag. It is but unfortunate that he isn’t getting as much love as the loyalty he’s displaying for the nation at the Grand Slams. One could argue he gave his best years to the Davis Cup team considering he is now on the wrong side of 30.

A tennis career is not that long hence it is understandable that Anderson is putting his individual career first; after all, he has reached an age where he is approaching the twilight of his career. That he plays in the same era as the fab four – Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer – has not helped his cause but he has fought gallantly. That he has been a consistent feature in the ATP top 30 is an achievement on its own. He has been unfortunate with injuries too thus making his decision to “quit” the Davis Cup team inevitable.

Anderson’s success on the ATP tour will give South Africa more exposure and international recognition. His is but a “lone” fight, a nation that’s been starved of success lately can finally celebrate a local hero.

Most people have grown accustomed to rooting for – Roger Federer – who was born to a South African mother but now that one of our own, Kevin Anderson, has come this far, can we put all our differences aside and appreciate what he has achieved. Let us all take a moment to celebrate him before it’s too late. There is no shame in losing to Rafael Nadal – a man three Grand Slam wins away from tying Federer’s record. Here is to hoping this latest achievement can only win him more fans back home for his decisions have been vindicated.

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