For a man who measures in at 6 feet and 8 inches tall, Kevin Anderson is not blind to the world far below his eye-level gaze.
“I watched a documentary called Plastic Oceans on Netflix and it was an eye-opener for me,” he stated to The Guardian. “As soon as you start researching it and googling it, it just sort of becomes apparent very quickly. I’ve always been eco-conscious, but these last few months I’ve just stepped up a little and when you’re eyes are open, there’s no going back.”
As the vice president of the ATP player council, Anderson is not spending his free time solely scouting his opponents; he is advocating for the tennis community to become more aware of the waste it creates as it works to achieve their goals. Earlier in the week, Naomi Osaka’s coach Sascha Bajin posted on Twitter about the heaps of trash being left behind by players. Water bottles, plastic covers for racquets, and even containers for balls are all items tournaments can recycle better and more attentively. Wimbledon has even banned plastic straws for the first year as the tournament aims to be more sustainable for the environment. Anderson is pleased by the support players and coaches have shown so far, but even he knows that breaking old habits is hard.
Kevin Anderson’s old habit is trying to advance past the fourth round of a major… and failing to do so. 10 times has he reached the fourth round of a major. On most of those occasions, he has made that journey, only to leave with the bitter taste of disappointment instead of getting one step closer to a coveted major title. There’s no simple initiative that can fix this issue — not like ocean plastics — but Anderson continues to be indefatigable as the odds stack against him. Surely Monday’s match was one of the biggest obstacles in front of him. Anderson had to face Gael Monfils, the electrifying Frenchman who had lost a single set to Anderson in their previous five meetings. Anderson stated before the match that Gael is such a tough opponent for him because he is great at neutralizing his strokes with his defense.
“Haven’t played him on the grass,” Anderson said. “It will be an interesting adjustment to see what happens. I feel like on other surfaces he does such a great job of retrieving, absorbing pace very well. He stands quite far back behind the baseline. I feel it’s a little tougher to do on grass.”
Monfils’ defense was stuck in Anderson’s mind, but he held his own in defending his half of the tennis court and was ultimately correct about Monfils’ style of play being tougher to employ on grass. The Frenchman had never passed the third round at Wimbledon until this fortnight. The final match score of 7-6 7-6 5-7 7-6 in Anderson’s favor makes the contest seem like it was a server’s affair, but the two combined for exceptional rallies and came out almost even in the distance covered statistic (10,685 feet run for Anderson, 10,760 for Monfils).
With this win, Anderson became the first South African to reach the quarterfinals of Wimbledon since Wayne Ferreira did so in 1994. Interestingly, Anderson’s countryman is one of the few players who ended a career with a positive head to head over Roger Federer, Anderson’s opponent in the quarterfinals.
Anderson has never beaten Federer in his career, but he hopes to seize one of the opportunities that are becoming more and more apparent on the ATP tour.
“For a long time tennis has been really dominated by a select group of individuals, you know, for quite a few reasons,” Anderson said. “They haven’t been as dominant as they have been in the past. I think that’s opened the door for other players. You have seen more players having that opportunity to experience playing matches deeper in Grand Slams and deep into Masters Series. I think that’s really valuable. I think when those same players are playing against some of the top guys, they come into the match with a little bit more belief. I think, you know, even over last 10, 15 years, you have had a lot of high-quality players who maybe haven’t been able to play their best tennis in the big arenas later stage of the tournaments. You’re starting to see guys feel more comfortable doing that. It’s also the fact when you see someone else doing it, for some reason it makes it easier. I think that’s been happening, too.”
This time, though, it’s not someone else who is busting into the final eight of a major — it’s Anderson himself.
Still, the names left in the men’s draw will be very familiar in the second week of Wimbledon. Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, Del Potro, and Raonic have all reached Wimbledon semifinals before. Will the success of the outsiders continue to be sustainable? Anderson hopes it will be easier than tackling ocean plastics.