Kevin Anderson enjoyed his best year in 2018 and already 2019 is a step up from last year as he prepares to face rising tennis star Frances Tiafoe in the Australian Open second round.
Anderson‚ 32‚ the No 5 seed at the Australian Open‚ won his first-round match against Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in four sets on Monday to set up a clash with powerful Tiafoe.
The young American‚ whose parents hail from Sierra Leone‚ has risen to 39 in the world rankings. He is dangerous so early in a grand slam.
Against Mannarino, Anderson needed three hours to win 6-3 5-7 6-2 6-1‚ which took him a stage further than he went in 2018 when he lost in the first round to Britain’s Kyle Edmund.
Similar to 2018‚ Anderson came into Melbourne for the season’s first grand slam on the back of a good start to his year.
Anderson was runner-up at the 2018 Tata Open Maharashtra in Delhi and this year he went a step further by winning the same tournament.
He has now also gone a step further in Melbourne and looks fit and hungry. Anderson hit an incredible 41 winners against Mannarino but could not take advantage of being a break-up in the second set. Unusually, it was Anderson’s powerful serve that faltered as the left-handed Frenchman broke him twice to take the second set.
Anderson immediately regrouped‚ dropping just three games the rest of the way.
He has now won eight of his past nine sets against Mannarino‚ and leads their head-to-heads 5-1.
Mannarino found it difficult to assert himself in points against the baseline-hugging Anderson‚ making 18 unforced errors in the final two sets. Tiafoe is one of the rising stars of the game and came through his first round against Indian qualifier Prajnesh Gunneswaran with little fuss‚ winning 7-6 (9) 6-3 6-3.
The 20-year-old Tiafoe has never beaten Anderson in three meetings‚ but has pushed the 2.03m South African every time.
They met three times in 2018 with Anderson needing three sets to win two of the clashes. Anderson will start as favourite but he knows that there is no room for complacency playing against a rising star with a fiery demeanour and a powerful game.
Tiafoe went to the US as a toddler after his mother won a green-card lottery and his father subsequently worked in construction and eventually as a caretaker of the Junior Tennis Champions Centre (JTCC) in Washington DC.
It was there that Frances and his twin brother Franklin came into contact with tennis and where Frances’s career took off as they played on spare courts and eventually caught the eye of the establishment’s coaches.