By Mark Etheridge
Court Seven at Roland Garos will be the focus of South African tennis fans on Friday as Kevin Anderson bids to become the first South African in 17 years to reach the last 16 of the French Open in Paris.
Last SA player to achieve that feat was Wayne Ferreira way back in 1996 but in 25th ranked Anderson they have someone with as good a chance as any of toppling lanky Canadian Milos Raonic (No16).
Friday’s clash will truly be a clash of the titans with the 2.03-metre Anderson coming up against the 1.96m Raonic.
Powerhouse serving and ferocious forehands are what both base their game on and their match-up will not be one for faint-hearted ball boys or girls.
The two have only met on one occasion to date and if that was any indication, Friday’s match will be a cracker. Raonic holds a 1-0 advantage over the top-ranked Anderson, having prevailed 7-5 7-6 (3) in the quarter-final of the San Jose Open in the United STates last year.
On that occasion they served up 30 aces between them (16-14 in Raonic’s favour) in a match lasting an hour and 40min. Even on the slow clay-court surface of Roland Garos, fans can expect aces aplenty.
For his side, Raonic will also be looking to make a bit of history with SA tennis guru Bruce Davidson pointing out that should he topple Anderson he’ll be the first Canadian man to reach the last 16 at Roland Garos. Raonic is a naturalised Canadian, having been born in Podgorica, Montenegro.
And Anderson will also be out to equal (and improve on) his best Grand Slam result. Significantly that came in the year’s first Grand Slam, the Australian Open where he reached the last 16 before succumbing to the player who has now become his nemesis, Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych.
The Anderson-Raonic encounter is the third match scheduled for Court Seven on Friday.