It’s been close to a decade since Kevin Anderson and his wife, Kelsey, settled in Gulf Stream, soon after he won his first ATP title outside his native South Africa at the 2012 Delray Beach Open.
The memory of hoisting that trophy has not faded.
“I remember that tournament very well,” Anderson said. “Really good matches, and it was a very meaningful event for me. (Winning) doesn’t happen every week.
“At the time I’d actually moved here, and it’s where I train, so winning the tournament gave a little extra meaning to it,” he said.
Anderson, 35, has compiled an impressive résumé since turning pro in 2007. He has a 76-47 record in majors, reached the finals of the 2017 U.S. Open and 2018 Wimbledon, and attained a career-high No. 5 world ranking in July 2018, becoming the first South African to reach the top five since Kevin Curren in 1985.
Those numbers might be even better if not for three of his contemporaries in what has often been called the golden age of tennis. He’s the same age as Rafael Nadal, one year older than Novak Djokovic and five younger than Roger Federer. The big three have won 20 Grand Slam titles each.
“That’s been tough,” Anderson admitted. “The two Grand Slam finals I played in were against one of those guys. They have so much experience, so it wasn’t easy. It’s been quite remarkable what they’ve been able to do.
“In some ways it’s been tough, but they’ve also been able to grow the sport, so it’s a bit of a curse and a blessing.”
Wimbledon 2018 was one of the highlights of Anderson’s career. He came back from two sets down to beat Federer in the quarterfinals, winning the final set 13-11, then beat John Isner 26-24 in the fifth set before losing to Djokovic in the final.
“The opportunity to play and come up on top of him was a great memory, a great experience,” Anderson said of the Federer match. “That hasn’t always been the case.”
Anderson got a life-altering experience when Kelsey, whom Anderson met when they were athletes at the University of Illinois, gave birth to their daughter, Keira, in September 2019.
“It sort of exaggerates the difference between life on and off the court,” he said. “On the court I’ve always been motivated, so there’s no big change there.
“But it’s more about coming home and spending time with Keira and my wife, having this different responsibility. That’s the biggest change. I’m going to be in Australia now and away for a month, but it’s part of the job. So, you get used to FaceTime and all that.”
After struggling with injuries in recent years, Anderson said he had “a good offseason” of training and was optimistic as he headed out in December for this month’s Australian Open. His world ranking stood at No. 80.
“Getting healthy is the difference between practicing and competing in terms of the strength and the body,” he said, “but all I can do is prepare the best I can.”
— Brian Biggane
Q: Where did you grow up and go to school? How do you think that has influenced you?
A: I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. I attended St. Stithians high school. I moved to the United States in 2005 and went to the University of Illinois on a tennis scholarship. This, combined with my travels for tennis which took me around the world, really allowed me to interact with so many different people and experience different cultures. I think one of the main areas this influenced me is being able to relate to many kinds of people.
Q: What professions have you worked in? What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
A: My whole life has been dedicated to tennis. From the time I was a little kid my dreams and aspirations were to be a professional tennis player. I never pursued any other type of profession. My most proud accomplishment would be making the finals of Wimbledon in 2018, reaching my career-high ranking of 5 in the world, and representing South Africa in the Olympic Games.
Q: What advice do you have for a young person seeking a career today?
A: You have to work hard, believe in yourself and be patient. Anything that is worth achieving takes a lot of work, there is no substitute for putting in the hours in your chosen field. You have to believe in your abilities and believe in your goals. Surround yourself with people who share in your dreams and support you. There will always be people who will try to dissuade you, but you need to confidently quiet their voices. Lastly, the road to success is always up and down. You have to remain patient and learn from both the positive and negative experiences.
Q: How did you choose to make your home in Gulf Stream?
A: Delray is host to the ATP 250 event hosted at the Delray Tennis Center in February. I played this event a couple times so it brought me to Delray Beach. My wife was born in West Palm Beach so she knew the area. We came down to spend the Fourth of July weekend in 2012 and really liked so many things about Delray Beach. We bought a condo nearby in Gulf Stream and moved here in the beginning of 2013.
Q: What is your favorite part about living in Gulf Stream?
A: I love being near the small-town beach feel that Delray Beach and this area offers; great restaurants, family-owned businesses, fun local events all really add to the feel. The beach and the outdoor weather all year long also is something that I really like. Lastly, as the years have gone on we have gotten to know more and more people. Many share the same love for the area and we have connected well with the wonderful people who call this area home.
Q: What book are you reading now?
A: I am reading a series of books called The Stormlight Archive. I really enjoy fantasy books and this is one of the best series I have read.
Q: What kind of music do you listen to when you want to relax? When you want to be inspired?
A: I really enjoy classical music — at the end of the day I’ll often find a Spotify playlist that goes over some of the old great classical music pieces. When I want something more upbeat I like listening to classic rock.
Q: Have you had mentors in your life? Individuals who have inspired your life decisions?
A: My dad coached me from the time I started playing tennis. But more than just tennis he taught me the value of hard work, sacrifice and pushing yourself to be the best you can be. This mind-set has really shaped my life’s journey so far.
Q: If your life story were to be made into a movie, who would play you?
A: One of my favorite actors is Matt Damon, so that would be my choice.
Q: Who/what makes you laugh?
A: I’m a big Ricky Gervais fan; he makes me laugh every time I watch or re-watch him. I have a pretty dry sense of humor at times, so a well-timed sarcastic joke will get a smile out of me.