French Open

Anderson’s implosion barely believable

2018-06-05 13:25
Kevin Anderson (AP)

Cape Town - Anyone - at any level of tennis - who has held a racquet in his hand at one time or another will surely empathise with much sympathy over what could be termed Kevin Anderson's "ultimate tennis nightmare" while going down 1-6, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7/0), 6-2 to Diego Schwartzman in one of the most stunning turnarounds in the history of the French Open.

Racing into a two-set lead with some of the most devastating and decisive tennis of his career in the fourth round Grand Slam encounter against the diminutive Argentinian, entry into the quarter-finals for the first time at Roland Garros seemed to be nestling comfortably in his lap when the 6-foot-8 Anderson led 5-3 in the third set and then 5-4 with his crunching, seemingly irrepressible serve to come.

But then a chain of contradictory events that even Ripley's famed, often far-fetched "Believe it or Not" would have found difficult to imagine, systematically took root, starting with Anderson dropping his service twice in succession and ultimately the third set 7-5.

Something uncannily similar materialised after Anderson again led 5-3 and then 5-4 in the fourth set - only to culminate with an unthinkable 7-0 bagel loss in the tie-breaker.

Then, in the fifth set, consternation turned to a chilling calamity for a nerve-wracked Anderson, who is considered to have one of the most lethal serves on the ATP circuit, when he surrendered all four of his service games with stuttering, shaky deliveries, while his impeccable earlier all-round timing  went  awry as an  improbable victory went the way of the gritty, gratefully improving Schwartzman in spite of the fact that he dropped his two opening service games in the fifth set as well.

Was this a case of a 13 inches shorter David slaying Goliath all over again, as Schwartzman himself suggested with tongue-in-cheek afterwards?

Actually this was even more improbable. In biblical times the little guy was never wallowing on the ground and looking totally helpless, before delivering his coup de grace with a well-executed catapult!

And if South African fans found the mode of the eclipse of the world's seventh-ranked Anderson acutely difficult to digest, there were few other crumbs of comfort to digest at the riveting, engrossing French Open, with doubles specialist Raven Klaasen and his New Zealand partner, Michael Venus, bowing out in the third round against Nikola Mektic (Croatia) and Alexander Peya (Austria).

But perhaps most disquieting in the long-term from the Paris tournament was the failure of 21-year-old South African No 2, Lloyd Harris, and top junior Philip Henning to progress beyond the opening round of the French Open qualifiers, which precedes the main draw, and the junior event respectively - indicating that the trumpeted steps taken recently to restore South African tennis to its former heights, while commendable, may be viewed through rose-tinted glasses, with considerable way to go before measuring up with the awesome improvements in the sport internationally.


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