Anderson eyes long strides to the top

South African number one Kevin Anderson said his Wimbledon defeat at the hands of world number two Novak Djokovic showed the level he will have to reach to challenge the game’s finest.

Anderson did not give the number two seed an easy ride in Thursday’s match on the 11 000-seater Court 1, but the Serb showed exactly why he has lost only one match all year with an assured performance.

The 2m-tall world number 36 was beaten 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 on the show court grass but said he learned plenty from the experience.

“It’s just different playing him, from the first rallies onwards. He makes you feel pretty uncomfortable. The slightest dip and you end up losing your serve,” the 25-year-old Anderson said.

“It needs quite a bit of work if I want to win a match like that.

‘He doesn’t give you anything’
“There were areas where I played well. But to beat somebody like him it’s going to have to be like that right throughout the match. He doesn’t give you anything. That’s the difference,” said Anderson.

“I’m going to look at the stuff I did well, continue to get better, and do that more and more often.

“Him, together with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, they are definitely a step above.

“Djokovic this year has stepped up his game a lot and I think he’s on level par with the other two guys. All those guys, Andy Murray too, play good points when they need it. They’ve got so many different levels of how they play.

“I know I can play better. There’s some stuff that I do do better, which I wasn’t able to do against Djokovic due to the opponent and the surface.

“He played great and didn’t allow me to do that. If I want to win I’m going to have to do these things better.”

Breakthrough year
Nonetheless, 2011 will still count as a breakthrough year for the Johannesburg right-hander, having won his first ATP tour title in his home city at the South African Open.

Anderson said he was eager to get back on the hard courts, his favourite surface.

“It’s been a pretty long stretch in Europe for me. I’ve been over here since Miami, so three months,” he said.

“I’m definitely looking forward to heading back to the United States and the swing of tournaments leading up to the US Open.”

After winning his home tournament in February, Anderson donated R5 000 to the Save the Rhino campaign. Protecting his homeland’s wildlife is a cause close to his heart.

“I’ve always had a soft spot there, especially when it comes to conservation and wildlife. Being in South Africa, we have a lot of special animals and we’re outdoor people,” he said.

“Helping out with a huge problem in South Africa, that of poaching rhinos, it was the least that I could do to help contribute to that.” — AFP

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