Anderson ready to break new ground at ATP finals

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A new chapter in South African tennis history comes to be written this weekend when Kevin Anderson competes in the Nitto ATP Finals in London.

That history is a mixed one.

In 1974, South Africa became the first nation to win the Davis Cup other than one of the four Grand Slam powers (USA, GB, France, Australia), but it won the final by default as India refused to play the apartheid regime.

Since then Wayne Ferreira and Amanda Coetzer have reached Slam semi-finals but never a final, while Liezel Huber and Wesley Moodie have won major doubles titles.

But, at 32, the Anderson era is breaking new ground.

Born and raised in Jo’burg but resident for many years in Florida where his wife Kelsey is from, the 6ft 8in giant reached last year’s US Open final, and in July he qualified for the Wimbledon final in the longest semifinal ever.

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That, plus other achievements like a semi on the clay of Madrid and winning the title in Vienna last month, has earned him his place at the eight-man elite year-ending tournament that recognises the most consistent players of the year.

The ATP, which runs the men’s tennis tour, says Anderson is the second South African to play singles at the event after Wayne Ferreira in 1995.

But Ferreira finished the race in ninth place and needed an Andre Agassi injury to get in, whereas Anderson has qualified as of right as the sixth-best player of this year.

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Anderson cut a dignified and relaxed figure as he met the media at Friday’s pre-tournament media day.

He sported a poppy, the symbol the British wear at this time of year to honour those who died in the world wars, and exalted in being a tourist in London, though his hotel room opposite the Houses of Parliament offers a view onto scaffolding and cladding round Big Ben, rather than the clock itself.

He talked about having his family, including his dog, in London with him, and about the environmental initiative he has launched that makes this week’s tournament much better on plastics than it has been in recent years.

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But the self-confessed Harry Potter fan blanked out on the name of the Potter film he saw on Wednesday.

On Sunday the real business begins when he faces Dominic Thiem in the first singles match of the tournament (16.00 SA time).

That’s preceded by the opening doubles match, in which another South African qualifier, the Wimbledon doubles runner-up Raven Klaasen, competes at the ATP Finals for the second time.

Both men are guaranteed at least three matches in the round robin format, with the best players and pairs going through to semi-finals and finals.

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