South African tennis star Kevin Anderson says his fourth round loss at the Australian Open to Rafael Nadal came down to a disappointing 12th game in the first set, which ultimately swung the match in Nadal’s favour.
“I was a little bit disappointed by how much I let that one game affect me,” Anderson said after Nadal broke the South African’s serve and won the opening set 7-5, en route to winning the match in straight sets on Sunday morning. At 5-5 in the set, Nadal saved five break points, clinching the game with an ace and service winner to go ahead 6-5.
Then in the 13th game, he broke Anderson’s serve, clinching the set when the South African hit a volley awkwardly into the net. “I felt that I started off really well. It was the kind of tennis that I need to play to be here,” Anderson said. “I just needed to be much more consistent within that.
“Even if I got through [won] that first set, there still would have been a lot of tennis to be played.” Seeded 14th in the tournament, Anderson was beaten in two hours and eight minutes, losing 7-5, 6-1, 6-4. It was the third year in a row that the lanky South African had reached the round of 16, but a dominant display from Nadal meant Anderson could not book a spot in the quarterfinals.
Despite bowing our before reaching the last eight of the tournament in Melbourne, Anderson said he was pleased that he managed to put himself in the position to challenge the tournament’s top seeds.
“I can still be happy that I put myself in that position. Last year I felt like I gave myself good opportunities. To progress, it’ll just be about winning a couple of those big matches.
“I didn’t cross that hurdle in this match against a tough opponent in Nadal but it’s definitely a goal to put myself in with those opportunities throughout the year.”
The match ‘felt really good’
On Friday, Anderson progressed to the last-16 by beating Richard Gasquet of France. “The match against Gasquet felt really good. “I definitely feel like, in terms of the way I hit the ball, my throw, I have the weapons and the shots to get to the last eight or even last four.”
Earlier, Nadal admitted after the match that the scoreline flattered him somewhat, particularly in the first set, when Anderson had chances which he failed to convert. “The first set, I was very lucky to win,” Nadal said.
“Kevin is a fantastic player, he’s a great guy. We’ve known each other since we were kids. He’s a good person, that’s the most important thing, and a fantastic player.” In response, Anderson told Sapa that the pair had come along way since competing against each other as aspiring juniors.
“I’ve always had a lot of respect for him. He’s been one of my favourite players to watch and a huge motivating factor of doing so well. He’s a terrific ambassador for the sport. I think he’s one of the best competitors of all time and across all sport.
“We’ve always been very friendly throughout the years.” Anderson said he would return to his home in Florida early next week, before beginning preparations for the start of the ATP season with tournaments across the United States.
“It’s great to reflect a little bit. I’ve taken some great positives, I really have to focus on that and use the tougher feelings of disappointment as motivation to keep improving. “I did really well in these [ATP] tournaments last year in Delray, Houston and Miami, so I’ll have my work cut out for me.” – Sapa