© New York Open/Alex Smith

Kevin Anderson seeks his first ATP World Tour title since 2015 at the inaugural New York Open.

Anderson Focuses On Continuing His Climb

The South African plays Ernesto Escobedo to begin his New York Open campaign

Kevin Anderson spent one week in the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings in October 2015, but then ankle and dental operations, a hip injury and more setbacks kept the right-hander off the court or far from his best. Exactly one year ago he competed at the Memphis Open, losing in the first round as the World No. 74.

A year later, the Memphis event has moved to Long Island and is now the New York Open. The last time the top seed was in the big apple, he advanced to his first Grand Slam final at the 2017 US Open, the culmination of an impressive comeback that saw Anderson thrust himself into contention for a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals. Now, aged 31, the South African is back at No. 11 in the ATP Rankings and determined more than ever to make up for lost time and challenge, once more, for titles.

“It gave me extra motivation to keep pushing myself to get in that position again. It was nice to be there once. I’d love to be there several times and compete for more tournaments at that level,” Anderson told ATPWorldTour.com. “I think there’s so much for me achieve at the [ATP World Tour] Masters [1000] level, have better successes there. I haven’t won any 500 events. I haven’t won a title in a few years. So I think there’s a lot for me to still play for.”

Anderson has finished four of the past five seasons inside the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings, but has won just one ATP World Tour title (2015 Winston-Salem) since 2012 and has captured three tour-level trophies overall. His major goal in 2018 is to qualify for his first season finale at The O2 in London, which will be held from 11-18 November.

But it is only February.

“That’s a longer-term goal that comes on the back of the work you put in day-in and day-out,” Anderson said. “My goal is to challenge and push myself each and every single day.”

That is fitting, as there are few competitors on the ATP World Tour who embrace the daily grind of life as a professional tennis player like Anderson. Brad Stine, who has coached the likes of former World No. 1 Jim Courier, Andrei Medvedev and Mardy Fish, joined the big server’s team this season after Anderson mutually split with Neville Godwin.

One thing has stood out in their short time together.

“Kevin is probably the most focused, intense, professional person I’ve been around since Jim Courier,” Stine said. “What he demands from himself and what he expects from his team when he’s at the office, inside the fences training for his tennis, is very high. I’ve really enjoyed that, actually. That intensity level and that demand, it’s great.”

And that is not just when times are good, as they have been often lately for Anderson — he began the ATP World Tour campaign at the Tata Open Maharashtra in Pune, India with a strong performance, losing in the final against Gilles Simon. But at the Australian Open, Anderson was ousted in the first round by eventual semi-finalist Kyle Edmund in a five-set thriller.

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“I felt I was playing very good tennis going in there off the finals in Pune,” Anderson said. “I came up against a very tough opponent in Kyle Edmund… I would have loved to be there, loved to have done better. Again, my philosophy is to try to learn from it, [even] if it’s sometimes very difficult [to swallow].”

Stine had only spent one week in Delray Beach, Florida working with Anderson and then another week with him at Melbourne Park. But it was the World No. 11's reaction to those losses that showed his coach the most.

“One of the things that I was really impressed with Kevin after the match, not having known him… was his level of maturity and how he dealt with those losses,” Stine said. “Just sitting down and analysing the situations. What were the positives and what were the negatives? What were the things that we need to learn from and improve on?”

And now, Anderson could move forward in New York — where he will open his campaign against 21-year-old American Ernesto Escobedo on Thursday — like he always does, trying to get better each day and with each match.

Even though he is in a very different spot than he was this time a year ago, that does not change Anderson’s mentality.

“The goal is to win the event,” Anderson said. “As I’ve always said, you just have to look at the depth of men’s tennis to know that every round is a tough match. There are no gimmes at all.

“I’ve had a good few weeks now. And I’m excited to begin my U.S. campaign here.”

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