Here's what makes Kevin Anderson so bloody good
Kevin Anderson grew up in a tennis family with a father who encouraged him to become ambidextrous. Years later this tough love helped him win a memorable point with his left hand in a Wimbledon epic
'Of course I'm South African," Kevin Anderson says with a slight American drawl. The 2018 Wimbledon men's singles finalist and fifth-ranked tennis player in the world, often has to defend his nationality because he has lived in the US for 13 years and spends little time in his home country.
"There has been a lot of talk about me being in the USA, but from pure necessity to make it in professional tennis I had to do it," Anderson says in an interview from Carnoustie Golf Club where he was watching The Open golf championship.
"America is definitely an adopted home - my wife (Kelsey) is from the country - and I'm not going to pretend that it's not.
"But at the same time I feel very South African. It gives me a lot of pride to have the South African flag next to my name when I'm playing. I love connecting with South Africans across the world.
"When I come back to South Africa it means a lot to me, and I love doing clinics and going to various schools to try and grow the sport. I also connect with various other South African athletes [cricketer Morne Morkel was in his box at Wimbledon's Centre Court last Sunday] and feel part of the South African sporting community."
Schooled at St Stithians College in Randburg, Anderson took a scholarship at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2005 and has made the US his home ever since.
GO TO COOL CITIES
He met Kelsey, a top college golfer at university, a few months after arriving and the pair were married in 2011. She travels to most of his events, organising his schedule and providing support to help make the nomadic lifestyle feel normal.
"One of the benefits of being a pro tennis player is that we travel the world and go to cool cities," Anderson says.
"It's a little tough sometimes to do sightseeing because I'm either at the courts, or at the gym. I might need to rest and recover, so doing excursions can sometimes be tiring. Occasionally opportunities present themselves to get out there.
"It's great that Kelsey travels with me and our dog tags along too, so it feels like home. I have several hobbies and I really like to play guitar [he is getting into old Blues classics] and we have TV shows that we like to get stuck into."
At 32, Anderson is at the top of his game, winning the ATP tournament in New York earlier this year as well as two final appearances in the last four men's Grand Slams - the 2017 US Open and Wimbledon last week.
Only all-time great Rafael Nadal has played in as many major finals in the past 10 months.
Although it appears that Anderson is a late bloomer, he has spent his entire life working towards being the best player in the world.
As luck would have it, though, his career intersected with some of the best players to have lifted a racquet - Roger Federer, Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who beat Anderson in the Wimbledon final last week.
But Anderson has never let setbacks and obstacles stop him from becoming better through hard work and tenacity. It's something his father Michael instilled in him from a young age.
Growing up in Hyde Park and Bryanston, Anderson came from a tennis family with father, mother Barbara and brother Greg keen players.
TALENT ALONE CAN'T WORK
Anderson had natural talent, but that is never enough to make it at the top end of any professional sport. There are many theories about what makes a top athlete, but all agree that there is no substitute for thousands of hours of practice.
In his book Bounce, former Britain table-tennis Olympian Matthew Syed explores the theory of talent alone usurping opportunity and hard work to reach the top. And concludes it can't.
Syed grew up with his elder brother in '70s Britain, in a modest home with an unusually large garage containing a table that his non-table-tennis-playing parents bought. He attended a local school that happened to have the best table-tennis coach in Britain on its staff.
Syed and his brother played at every opportunity in their garage, clocking up thousands of hours of practice without even knowing it. Syed theorises that by the time he turned 18 he had more playing hours than just about anyone in the UK.
The parallels with Anderson are obvious. He had a tennis court at home, a brother who liked the sport, a father and mother who also played, and so he spent many days and hours hitting balls.
Of course, just being lucky enough to have a court at home does not necessarily translate into producing a Wimbledon finalist because so much else has to come together - most crucially a hunger to play and train when friends are doing something else. Kevin had that.
Michael Anderson certainly pushed Kevin as a child, but there are no horror stories of the tennis fathers who have littered the sport over the years. He was tough, but not over the top...