Anderson Thriving On Newport Grass This Week

Kevin Anderson (photo: @TennisHalloFame/Twitter)

NEWPORT, R.I./WASHINGTON, July 17, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Kevin Anderson walks tall and carries a big stick in the form of his tennis racquet. The gentle and soft-spoken, six-foot-eight-inch South African native has averaged 18 service aces per match this week at the ATP 250 Hall of Fame Open. After returning from knee surgery in 2020 and overcoming some minor injuries earlier this year, the 113th-ranked Anderson is thriving this week on grass at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport.

When the eighth seed Anderson and No. 1 seed Alexander Bublik from Kazakhstan meet Saturday in the semifinals, it promises to be a battle of first-strike tennis. After all, the No. 37 Bublik is leading the ATP Tour in total service aces with 452 this season.

Anderson’s road to the last four in Newport – his first semifinal since last October in Vienna – has been one that brings back memories of when he ascended to World No. 5 and reached two Grand Slam finals, at the 2017 US Open and 2018 Wimbledon. The 35-year-old Anderson has played focused while keeping a sense of positivity throughout each of his three victories this week, against Illya Marchenko of Ukraine, German qualifier Sebastian Ofner and wild card Jack Sock of the United States. When he’s not racking up service aces, he’s using his agility to craft some remarkable points through old-fashioned serve-and-volley.

“I work really hard to keep as positive as possible,” Anderson said after beating Sock 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-4 in two hours and 36 minutes on Thursday. “Sometimes, it’s pretty tough out there. A few of Jack’s shots today were just too good; I couldn’t get upset. A positive mentality counts for a lot.”

Anderson’s win over Sock improved his season’s win-loss record to 10-9. Appearing in his 10th tournament in 2021, this week represents his deepest run – and it’s his fifth event on grass this year. Through the quarterfinal round, Anderson has dropped just one set. He’s also done a tremendous job of holding his serve, saving six of seven break points he’s faced. “Obviously, you have to take care of your service games,” he said. “For me, that’s the primary focus, and then trying to create as many opportunities on the returns as possible.”

Being healthy again has also made a big difference in Anderson’s attitude and performance on court.

“It’s been a pretty tough couple of years where it’s just been stop and start,” Anderson said during an on-court interview on Monday. “Injuries have gotten the better of me in certain moments. I feel like, for the last while, things are really trending upwards. So, I’m really excited about that. It’s just trying to get as many matches as possible.”

After beating Ofner on Wednesday, Anderson said: “Sometimes, little things crop up, and that’s unfortunate. But we do as much as we can each day to try and prevent that. I feel like I’m dealing with things really well and hopefully looking forward to some consistency where I’m just able to give myself that opportunity to keep playing.”

Brooksby reaches first ATP Tour-level semifinal

Twenty-year-old Jenson Brooksby of the United States reached his first ATP Tour-level semifinal with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over No. 131 Peter Gojowczyk of Germany in just 62 minutes. The 152nd-ranked American from Sacramento, Calif., converted five of 13 break points and outpointed Gojowczyk 55-31 to garner his first quarterfinal win at tour level in his first ATP Tour event on grass. Brooksby secured match point with his third ace.

“I’m especially happy with a good first set to start it out,” Brooksby said during an on-court interview following his win. “In the second set, I could have done something things better – and I’m thinking about that still now – but I’m just happy to get through. Props to him though on a good match, and I’m going to get ready for tomorrow. …

“It’s been a good year and I just want to keep pushing forward,” Brooksby added. “I definitely have a lot of confidence going into these next few matches.”

Next, Brooksby, who has compiled 31 victories in all competitions this year, will face No. 7 seed Jordan Thompson of Australia. The 71st-ranked Thompson defeated No. 155 Maxime Cressy of the United States, 6-3, 7-6 (6), in an hour and 51 minutes to reach his third tour-level semifinal – all on grass. It took Thompson four match points to defeat Cressy, whose serve-and-volley approach lifted him into his first ATP Tour-level quarterfinal with two victories earlier this week. Thompson outpointed the UCLA graduate 75-64 to reach his first ATP Tour semifinal of the year.

“I managed to hold on in the second set,” Thompson said during his post-match press conference, alluding to the match points he wasn’t able to convert while serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set, then saving a set point at 5-6 to take it a tie break. “Credit to [Maxime]. He fought well and put a lot of pressure on me. He made me think about it. I snuck through in the tie-break and managed just to hold my head … and to play a solid enough match.”

Around the Hall of Fame Open

• American Austin Krajicek and Vasek Pospisil of Canada advanced to Sunday’s doubles final via walkover when the team of Joao Sousa of Portugal and Justin Thompson of Australia withdrew. Thompson is still alive in the singles draw. The other semifinal will match American wild cards William Blumberg and Jack Sock against No. 2 seeds Jonathan Erlich of Israel and Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico. On Friday, Blumberg and Sock defeated No. 3 seeds Harri Heliovaara of Finland and John-Patrick Smith of Australia, 6-4, 6-3, in a quarterfinal-round match.

• On Saturday, in addition to the singles semifinals and a doubles semifinal, the International Tennis Hall of Fame will celebrate the induction of the Class of 2020, Conchita Martinez and Goran Ivanisevic, along with the Class of 2021: coach Dennis Van der Meer and the Original Nine, which included Billie Jean King, Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Julie Heldman, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Judy Tegart Dalton and Kerry Melville Reid.