Into the US Open semi-finals, South Africa’s Kevin Anderson is hogging the headlines as he became the first South African to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since Wayne Ferreira at the Australian Open back in 2003.
Anderson’s 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (9-11) 6-3 7-6 (9-7) victory over American Sam Querrey sets him up for a semi-final showdown with Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta in Friday’s semi-final.
Anderson reached the quarter-finals of the US Open two years ago, but until Wednesday had never before played at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Here’s what Anderson had to say at the official press conference after his historic victory (transcript courtesy of ASAP Sports).
Q. How does it feel to be in a slam semi-final?
KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, it feels really good. You know, it just happened really quick, I guess. Just got off a few minutes ago. It was an incredible match.
Again, matches like that, you sort of focus on getting through right there and then and look at the bigger picture afterwards.
It was a great match. You know, I have put in a lot of work. It definitely, you know, feels good that I have reached some, you know, milestone that I haven’t before. At the same time, I feel like I came into this taking each match at a time.
It’s going to be really — I think I will let myself enjoy it for the next day. I will have a couple days off now and definitely going to then refocus for my next match.
Q. You have been on tour a lot of years, a lot of ups and downs. What’s this mean to you to get this new best result at this stage of your career?
KA: Yeah, that was one of my goals, just to try and further my previous best result. I was able to do that today, so that feels very good.
No, I want to say it’s a fantastic feeling, but at the same time I feel like I want to keep, you know, I feel like – you know, I’m still in this tournament. I feel like I’m going to have another opportunity to go one step further.
As I was saying, I think I can enjoy it. I have had quite a few messages on my phone already. I have a day to really enjoy it, and then it’s time obviously to get ready for the next one.
Q. You have been unbelievably pumped up, so much. The aggression in your game, a lot of fist pumping. Is that conscious?
KA: Yeah, I mean, I feel like that’s something I have sort of added to my game. You know, those matches are tough. I feel like I just try to play each point as best as I can.
I know it’s very cliched. I feel like I’m doing a better job of that. I felt in the second set, after being 6-1 down and the next minute it’s 6-All, obviously a very tough point to lose that 6-All point. I don’t want to play too many points like that. But I feel like that’s where, you know, I was able to really reset. After a tough — you know, it’s almost tougher, would have been better off losing that tiebreak almost 7-1 than coming so close to actually being two sets to love up.
I felt I did a fantastic job resetting. These matches, it just comes to a point here and there. Fortunately, I was able to win a couple more points than him tonight.
Q. What was it like facing Sam, who is basically like a mirror of yourself?
KA: Yeah, I mean, I think I have played Sam more than any other guy in my career. I think this was the 15th time we played, already third time since Wimbledon.
You know, you always are expecting tiebreaks. You maybe get one or two chances and, you know, it’s sometimes difficult. I remember playing him at Wimbledon in the second set where I really felt I had a few more opportunities than him, but he came up with some unbelievable serving.
Again, tonight a few break points, and you just have to stay really patient when sort of chances come and go a little bit.
I’m sure he might feel the same way, playing against me. For the most part, I just try to impose my game. If you let him dictate too much, it’s going to be really difficult. I feel like both of us are trying to, you know, stop the other guy from doing that.
Yeah, I guess it’s definitely an interesting match-up, and, you know, we have always had really close matches.
Q. Obviously you will revel in this, but can you look ahead to Carreno Busta? How do you feel your games match up?
KA: Yeah, we played recently. It was a tough match, really windy that day. Both of us struggled for rhythm. This is new ground for both of us. There will be adjustments we both have to make.
Again, for me, just try to do the same thing. Really go out there and focus on what I’m trying to do. I’m going to have to. It will allow me to play my best tennis.
He’s had an amazing year, really consistent results now. At the French, getting through to the quarters and now through to the semis here.
You know, he’s definitely obviously very confident, so it will be an interesting match and very excited to go out there and playing and competing in the semifinals.
Q. You have waited a long time for a semifinal. How does it feel to get there with another guy who’s never gotten there? You probably imagined it to be against one of the Big 4
KA: Yeah, we are so accustomed to it, a decade, same guys being there. I think everybody involved in the tennis world, to see some new guys there, as I have been saying all week it’s – you know, people are saying it’s been a wide-open draw.
Still tough matches. So used to the same guys being there, and they have had such unbelievable consistency. So obviously it gives us a bit of a chance that, you know, those guys, you know, to see a couple of them in the other half, a couple of them unable to play this year, it allowed, gave some of the guys an opportunity, you know, to go deep into the tournament.
Q. You are one of the hardest workers on tour. What’s it mean to get to this point in your career?
KA: Yeah, it means a lot. You know, you work so hard and it’s just such small sort of differences. Ultimately, at this level, when we have all been playing for so long, it’s tough to make huge adjustments and huge improvements.
It’s small, little things. You know, there are things I have probably spent the most time on just keeping my body healthy. One of the biggest positives, five matches, three out of five sets, I’m a little tired, but my body is holding up. I can take a lot of confidence out of that.
You know, I’m always working hard, looking at ways to improve my game. I feel, you know, at times it’s maybe been I have looked a little bit too hard and I feel like I need to trust my abilities. I feel like I’m doing that better. That’s also a skill you have to learn. I feel like I have got a great team around me and hopefully we will be able to keep this going.
Q. America’s very familiar with you, with your background. Big 10, Illinois. How much support are you getting from back home and South Africa and any of the past legends reaching out, Kriek, Drysdale, some of those guys? What are they saying, if they are?
KA: Yeah, you know, I have had, you know, just a lot of support here. There was a bunch of South African guys with T-shirts. That’s always great to see. I have got a ton of messages from friends and family back home.
My biggest, you know, hope is that I’m able to inspire kids to play the sport. It’s very tough coming from South Africa, far from the scene. I take a lot of – it makes me feel good that I can hopefully fly a flag and show kids especially that if you work hard you can get there.
I just breezed through my phone. I saw a message from Wayne Ferreira, which is great. We have chatted quite a bit this year. I saw him in Wimbledon a lot, and he’s given me a lot of support in an unofficial way. I saw a quick message from Ernie Els, one of the golfing legends, Louis Oosthuizen, a couple of golfers I’ve met just from our location in Florida.
Yeah, I just heard I’m the first South African in the Open Era to get to the semis here. My first sort of South African record. I feel pretty proud about that.
Q. What factors tilted it from Wimbledon? You played that five-set match, 13-11 tiebreak. Talk about what happened tonight.
KA: It felt pretty even a lot of the time for me, but just really, against him, it’s just a couple points here and there. I mean, at Wimbledon I felt I got off to a very good start. Won the first set, had quite a few break points in the second set. Maybe three or four. I was holding comfortably, but he served too well. He played a good tiebreak.
Maybe if I win one of those points, could have been a little bit different. Just like tonight in the fourth-set tiebreaker, set points, he wins one of those and now we’re in a fifth set. It was really close. From this and Wimbledon, I think it could have gone either one of our ways. Tonight was my night. He got me at Wimbledon.
You know, it’s tough to point, you know, exactly. At times I felt I was getting an okay read on his serve and making him play a little bit, I felt maybe in that third set, but then he picked it up a lot in that fourth set. And when you get to a tiebreaker and 6-All, 7-All, it’s anybody’s game. I was able to stay in the moment, and it felt fantastic seeing that last ball, you know, go long.
Picture of a victorious Anderson courtesy of Matthew Stockman/Getty Images