Kevin Anderson’s determination and guile lead him to semifinal at Rogers Cup

Kevin Anderson, at 6-foot-8, never has had a problem garnering notice on the tennis court.

At the age of 32, however, the South African finally is getting the attention that comes with reaching his personal-best career ranking on the ATP Tour.

Anderson, who advanced to the Rogers Cup semifinals with a 6-2, 6-2 victory against Grigor Dimitrov on Friday, is ranked sixth in the world after reaching No. 5 in mid-July when he lost in the final at Wimbledon.

“I just know how it feels right now, and it’s definitely a long way to get here,” Anderson said. “I’m incredibly motivated to keep working hard, keep pushing myself.

“I know that there is a lot of goals I set for myself that I haven’t achieved yet. It has been that motivation that has kept me going and why I’m sitting here at 32, and still feel like I’m playing some of my best tennis.”

Anderson’s head-to-head history with Dimitrov is rife with losses, as he had beaten the Bulgarian, ranked No. 5 on the eve of the Rogers Cup, just once in seven meetings. Prior to Friday on centre court at the Aviva Centre, that lone victory had six years to collect dust, as Anderson beat Dimitrov only in 2012, at the SAP Open in San Jose.

On Friday, Anderson won 81% of his first-serve points and had 12 aces, and did not face a break point in the match.

A Bulgaria fan cheers on Grigor Dimitrov during his loss to Kevin Anderson at the Rogers Cup on Friday. GETTY IMAGES

“There’s not much you can do (about Anderson’s serve),” Dimitrov said. “You can try to guess which spot he’s going to serve, but I think the court suits him a lot. It’s a very high bounce.

“I tried everything. I tried to stay back, tried to chip, tried all the things I could possibly think of, but it just wasn’t enough.”

In one semi on Saturday, Anderson will face Stefanos Tsitsipas, who outlasted Alexander Zverev 3-6, 7-6 (11), 6-4 in the second quarterfinal of the day. The defending Rogers Cup champion, Zverev became the third top-10 player eliminated in the tournament by the 19-year-old Tsitsipas, who also ousted ninth-seed Novak Djokovic in the third round and the seventh seed Dominic Thiem in the second round. Zverev was seeded second in the tournament; Tsitsipas, who turns 20 on Sunday, was ranked No. 27 in the world when the tournament started.

As Anderson was holding his news conference, the Tsitsipas/Zverev match was being shown on a nearby television. Anderson glanced over and referred to the younger competitors as “two of the sport’s brightest stars.”

Anderson and Tsitsipas have met once, and the Greek national beat Anderson on the clay at the Estoril Open in Portugal in May.

That loss is unlikely to bother Anderson, whose impressive 2018 season continues.

Anderson, serving to Grigor Dimitrov, now faces young Greek phenom Stefanos Tsitsipas in a Rogers Cup semifinal on Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS

It’s the sixth time this season Anderson has reached the semis; he achieved the pinnacle at the New York Open, which he won in February. In three of his past four Rogers Cup appearances, Anderson made it to the quarters, but never advanced.

The career surge for Anderson, who makes his home in Gulf Stream, Fla., comes after he battled through injuries during the 2016 season. Work off-court has helped his return game.

“I don’t think there was one flick of a switch,” Anderson said. “It really feels like there was systematic improvements in many different areas.

“Staying healthy, obviously, is really important. As I’ve gone along, I’ve been able to trust myself more and more. Some of the results I’ve had definitely makes that process a lot easier.

“It’s tough to sort of point it out. It wasn’t one moment where it all came together. I feel like there was a lot of little moments along the way. I can point to some of the bigger ones, making two Grand Slam finals now (Anderson reached the final of the U.S Open last year before doing the same at Wimbledon this year).

“It has been a bit of a case of trying to make that breakthrough. I’ve gained more belief and trust in my game.”

‘IT FELT LIKE HOME’

If Stefanos Tsitsipas wins the Rogers Cup on Sunday, might he try to celebrate at the tail end of the Taste of the Danforth on that night?

“Yeah, for sure,” Tsitsipas said with enthusiasm on Friday. “I was there in Greektown last night, had dinner with friends.”

Tsitsipas, a native of Athens, has been buoyed by the fan support he has received at the Aviva Centre in his first Rogers Cup.

“They were amazing (during his upset quarterfinal win against Alexander Zverev). I saw many Greek flags around the court, and they were cheering for me in Greek. It felt like I was playing at home. It felt like I was playing in Athens. Hopefully, they’ll make an ATP event one day there.

“It felt so nice to have all the crowd cheering for you. And, I mean, most of the people were not even Greek, and I still felt like they were supporting me more than my opponent, who is a top-five player.”

What did Zverev think of the support for Tsitsipas?

“It was great,” Zverev said, not masking his sarcasm. “I was very happy for him.”

[email protected]

twitter.com/koshtorontosun

Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies