Hard work pays off for gracious Kevin Anderson as he takes on Novak Djokovic for shot at Wimbledon title

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When you’ve fought on a tennis court for six hours and 35 minutes, you can be forgiven for not being able to string together proper sentences.

Kevin Anderson is perfectly capable of doing both though – surviving a gruelling marathon semi-final against John Isner that ended 26-24 in the fifth set, and eloquently articulating his feelings following said battle.

After booking a spot in his maiden Wimbledon final by going through the longest-ever semi-final at SW19, the South African was mentally, physically and emotionally spent. Yet somehow his immediate words when he walked off court following his victory were dedicated to the man he just beat.

“At the end, you feel like this is a draw between the two of us, but somebody has to win. John is such a great guy and I really feel for him because if I’d been on the opposite side I don’t know how you can take that, playing for so long and coming out short. I apologise if I’m not more excited right now just so many mixed emotions,” a choked up Anderson told the BBC.

He then calmly explained how their match was yet another example of why the best-of-five format at Wimbledon, and two of the remaining three Slams, needs to be reexamined.

Those are all extremely thoughtful statements after such an emotional and taxing experience. He gave us all a lesson in grace and humility.

At 32, Anderson is enjoying the best 10-month stretch of his career. Hindered by injury woes, the Johannesburg-native saw his ranking slip to 80 in the world in January last year. Today, he is ranked No. 8 and has reached the finals at two of the last four Grand Slams. He’s made the second week at four of the last six.

“He’s playing the tennis of his life,” said Novak Djokovic of Anderson ahead of their Sunday final.

One of the tallest men in the top-100, Anderson’s work ethic and focus on fitness and recovery have allowed the Florida-based player, all 203cm of him, to insert himself among the best in the world.

During his five-set victory over Roger Federer in the quarter-finals, Anderson was sprinting to the net and running down drop shots like someone half his size. The hours he must have put in off the court to get to that level of great movement must have been astounding.

With many tall big-servers rising to the top, Anderson stands out as someone with a strong baseline game, smooth feel at the net, and a constant hunger to improve. He now faces Djokovic for a shot at a maiden Grand Slam trophy. The last time they faced off was in the Wimbledon fourth round where Anderson led by two sets before Djokovic came back to deny him the upset.

Anderson has spent 21 hours on court through his six matches so far this fortnight. Djokovic has spent just 15 hours and 34 minutes in comparison.

It’s a race against the clock when it comes to recovery for the South African, but if he manages to get his body ready for this match-up, he will give Djokovic a run for his money.

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