Now Comfortable on a Big Stage, Kevin Anderson Seeks a Major Win

Now Comfortable on a Big Stage, Kevin Anderson Seeks a Major Win

“Last year, if you had said I’d make two Grand Slam finals, it would be amazing and crazy,” he said. “Once you do it, you realize it’s obviously a great achievement and a lot of great memories, but life and tennis moves on. I built it up a little bit too much in some aspects in my mind of what it would be like.’’

Still, he added, “it was interesting to go through those emotions.”

They were certainly new feelings for a player who has spent much of his career considered a secondary player — the kind that opponents did not want to face because of his booming serve and savvy court awareness but one who rarely advanced past the third and fourth rounds in tournaments. In his first 33 Grand Slam events, Anderson reached the quarterfinals only once, at the 2015 U.S. Open.

But on his 34th and 37th attempts, he was suddenly in unfamiliar terrain. Defying expectations, Anderson reached last year’s U.S. Open final, and less than a year later he was back at the same level at Wimbledon.

He lost both finals to two of the sport’s greats — Rafael Nadal in last year’s U.S. Open and Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon, and both times he fell in straight sets. Anderson said he always knew he had the game to compete with the best players in the world, but he had to prove it to himself first.

He has long been a dedicated worker, but he noticed that his constant efforts to improve every aspect of his game also sent a subliminal message to himself that he didn’t yet have the skill to win a major title. Now that is changing.

“I feel like in the last year or so, I was able to recognize just how good of a tennis player I am, without needing to constantly work to improve,” he said. “My mind-set shifted where I realized, I’ve got the game and I’m just adding pieces, as opposed to needing to work so hard that you wonder, ‘Is my game good enough to win these tournaments?’”

As he spoke, Anderson wore the clear, self-confident expression of a premier athlete.

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