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Kevin on all-time high

Newly crowned SA Open tennis champion Kevin Anderson rocketed up to a career-high 40th place on the ATP Tour rankings when the latest placings were announced on Monday.

Anderson, who beat Somdev Devvarman in three sets in the tournament’s final at Montecasino, Johannesburg on Sunday, moved up 19 places from his previous listing of 59, writes Mark Etheridge.

The 24-year-old Anderson pocketed $76,500 for his maiden ATP Tour victory, boosting his earnings this year to $127,407. That’s already more than the $121,439 that he earned for the entire year last year.

Anderson’s rise up the rankings was the most significant positive move in the top 50 rankings. Beaten finalist Devvarman also improved his rankings mightily, going up 30 places to 80th on the rankings.

Other leading South Africans in action at the SA Open all moved up. Izak van der Merwe went up 19 places to 141st, Rik de Voest went up 24 places to 159 and Fritz Wolmarans six spots to 255.

After his victory Anderson took time out to tell what victory on his home soil meant to him.

How does it feel to win your first ATP World Tour title in your home country?

It’s an amazing experience. Obviously just winning my first title is one thing, but doing it in front of my home fans and my country with my friends and family watching is something I’ll remember forever.

You played Somdev in the US Open last year and also in college. What was your game plan going in?

Somdev is a tricky player. He plays so well, he fights so hard, there’s never an easy point. But from the US Open I think I learned one or two things and today I just wanted to really go out there, be aggressive and play on my terms.

You played the final in Las Vegas in 2008. Did you come into this final with a different approach?

Not really. I really just tried to come out there and play my game. I think being in a final before sort of settled my nerves a little bit. Even though I was a little nervous starting out this match I was able to overcome it and I think being in that position before definitely helped me a lot.

You’re off to your career-best start this season in the first six weeks of the year. Have you done things differently from the past?

I don’t think necessarily differently as opposed to just continuing what I’ve been working on and obviously it’s the beginning of the year, but in terms of my development, it’s part of a long process so continue to work hard and hopefully I’ll be able to have more results like these.

Is there anything you did differently during the last off-season to your game.

Not really. Just learned a lot from what I wanted to improve on a little bit. It’s the same kind of things I’m trying to practice on during tournaments. I have a longer space to do it in. I think I was able to practice well and I think the results are kind of showing that.

Now that you’ve cracked the Top 50, what are your goals for the rest of this season?

My end of year goal is to finish the year in the Top 20. Obviously it’s a good start, but there’s still a lot of tennis to be played and it’s just important to recognise the accomplishment this week and build in confidence for the rest of this year.

Who are the players you admired growing up and did your pattern of game take after them?

I always looked up at Sampras and more recently Federer and Nadal, just the way them handle themselves and how great they are for the sport. It doesn’t really reflect too much on my game, although I am trying to become more aggressive, so I┬á guess I look at Federer and learn a lot of his patterns of play. I try and learn what I can from him.

Who’s helped you get where you are today in your career?

Definitely my family┬áÔÇô my mom, my dad and my brother. My brother played as well. Growing up they gave so much to help me get to where I am. They’ve continued to play a really important role where I am right now. To Lui my coach, whose been working with me for about a year now, he’s been a great part. To my fianc├®e in Chicago, who’s really supported me and given me just a lot of backing.

With three South Africans getting to the quarter-finals this week, what do you think of the state of the game in your country?

It’s great. We have some really good players. It’s just great to give everybody an opportunity to play and sometimes that’s tough. A lot of players around the world get to play in their home country, in front of their home fans, and not to say it’s easier, but it’s definitely nice having that feeling. I think everybody was really able to capitalise on that this week.