Johannesburg - It’s just a ball.
That’s the most important lesson Kevin Anderson’s first tennis coach - his father - taught him when he was just a boy. That, and the ability to hit a ball with his left hand.
About that all-important tennis lesson, Barbara Anderson, Kevin’s mother, had this to say: “He told him anyone can hit a ball - it’s just a ball. It’s up to you how you hit it back.”
About that incredible shot in the Wimbledon semi-final when Kevin (32) slipped in the penultimate game of the match, only to jump up and hit the ball back with his left hand, winning not only the game but eventually the match, Kevin said: “When I was younger, I had an operation on my elbow ... and for four or five months I played only with my left hand. I would never have thought that I would have played a shot with my left hand in the semi-final of Wimbledon.”
His father’s good advice helped Kevin to make history on Friday when he defeated his good friend, the American John Isner, in a marathon match that lasted six hours and 36 minutes.
In the process he became the first South African men’s player to make it to the Wimbledon final since Brian Norton in 1921.
Kevin Curren, who lives in Durban, competed as an American when he lost to Boris Becker in the final in 1985. In 1960 Sandra Reynolds Price became the only South African woman to have ever played in a Wimbledon final.
On Sunday at 15:00 Anderson will probably play in the biggest match of his life - and stand the chance of winning prize money of almost R40 million.
Barbara is now in London to support her son, while her husband Mark is following the tournament on the TV from their home in Johannesburg. She said her husband isn’t crazy about the spotlight and decided to stay at home.
“We are incredibly proud of Kevin. His brother Greg also helped Kevin to get to where he is now. Growing up they spent hours on the court hitting the ball to each other. It was always a joke that one of them had to hit a winning shot before it could end so they went on for hours and hours.”
She said Kevin has always been dedicated. Not just to tennis, but also to his schoolwork.
“He has always been such a caring person, from an early age and to this day he has never changed. He has a lovely, soft, caring character,” she said.
For instance, said Barbara, Kevin would always turn around to thank the security guards who watch him while he practises at Wimbledon.
After Friday’s match - the fifth set alone consisted of an incredible 50 games - Kevin was dubbed the “marathon man” on Wimbledon’s official twitter page.
Shortly before the match, Barbara said she was very nervous, but she just focused on the tournament and believed that Kevin was ready to do his best.
“We believe in Kevin, we stand behind him and we know he is on the right path and he can win the tournament,” said Barbara.
“It’s a funny thing, we did not talk about tennis beforehand. Kevin comes and practises and does the necessary things to prepare and we watch him. Otherwise we talk about ordinary things and keep the atmosphere as calm as possible so that he can just focus on what he has to do,” she said.
“He has been very upbeat this whole tournament and he has not hit a low.”
Greg, who is a coach at a tennis academy in New York, is also in London to support his brother. Kelsey, Kevin’s wife, will definitely be courtside to support him.