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Kevin Anderson Is Out To Prove That Giants Can Play Tennis Too

Can players be too tall to play tennis at the highest level on the tour?

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LONDON: In the past, many people have said that the ATP Finals features the giants in men’s tennis, but for Kevin Anderson, it is statistically true.

 

At six foot and eight inches tall, the South African is the second tallest player to have ever contested the Nitto ATP Finals. The first is 6”10’ John Isner, who is also making his debut at The O2 this week. On Sunday he kick-started this year’s tournament with a two-set triumph over Dominic Thiem. The victory equals his personal best of 46 wins within one season, which was set back in 2015.

“There’s definitely been more and more successful (players) who are tall,” Anderson told reporters on Sunday.
“I think the biggest thing when you are taller, sometimes moveability is a little tougher, change of direction, getting to lower balls. That’s something that you have to work I think a little bit harder on.”
“But I think it’s changed the perspective a little bit. When you see other guys that are tall moving well, you are a kid, it changes the way you see the game. That’s often the case.”

Height has in no way impeded the 32-year-old on the court this season. Heading into the final ATP event of 2018, he has featured in five finals on the tour. Winning titles in New York followed by Vienna, which was the first ATP 500 event he has won. On July 16th Anderson became the first South African male to break into the top five on the ATP rankings at fifth.

Players at the ATP Finals ranked by height
John Isner – 208cm
Kevin Anderson – 203cm
Alexander Zverev – 198cm
Marin Cilic – 198cm
Novak Djokovic – 188cm
Roger Federer – 185cm
Dominic Thiem – 185cm
Kei Nishikori – 178cm

So how does somebody so tall manage to succeed on the tour? Especially when it comes to facing players who repeatedly hit low balls. Forcing Anderson to bend more and apply pressure on his knees or back. The South African believes part of the success is attributed towards how he was brought up by his parents.

“My dad, who taught me growing up, was very insistent and he had great foresight to see where the game was going,” Anderson explains.
“We spent a lot of time working on my movement from the baseline. That’s what I feel more comfortable with. As my career got on, I’ve been trying to find ways to come forward more.”
“Especially in today’s game, there’s a lot of times where guys are playing such great defense that you do find yourself in rallies. I spent a lot of time in my training, both on and off the court, working on my movement. Having good technique, good footwork patterns, being strong enough, being tall.”

‘There’s still room for improvement’

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In a sport where the average of the top tennis players has increased in recent years, Anderson is refusing to declare that he is at his peak. The 32-year-old is the 12th oldest player currently ranked in the top 100. Roger Federer tops the list at the age of 37.

“If I look at my game, I definitely feel there are some areas that I can continue to get better on. They’re very, very small margins. I feel I have done a very good job in the last while in trusting in my game.” He analyzed.
“I still feel like some of my best tennis is ahead of me. I feel like the goals I’ve set for myself, there’s still a lot to play for. Of course, the biggest challenge would be health.”

Anderson’s belief has been aided by his quartet of wins over top 10 players this season, including his thrilling triumph over Federer at Wimbledon. His other conquests were Grigor Dimitrov, Isner and most recently Thiem on Sunday.

“It doesn’t always work out, but I definitely feel like I’m getting more and more comfortable in those situations, against some of the best players in the world.” He concluded.

Anderson will continue his campaign at the ATP Finals on Tuesday. He will take on the winner of the Sunday night clash between Federer and Kei Nishikori.

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REPORT: Grigor Dimitrov Appoints New Coach

The former ATP Finals champion appears to have found a new mentor.

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Former top 10 player Grigor Dimitrov has found a replacement following the departure of Radek Stepanek, according to one Bulgarian news source.

 

TennisKafe.com has reported that the world No.20 is now working alongside Christian Groh. A German-born coach who has worked with a number of top players on the men’s tour. Including Tommy Haas and Taylor Fritz. It is his work with Haas that Groh is best known for. During their 24 months together, he guided him from outside the top 200 to 11th in the ATP rankings.

The development comes a month after the 28-year-old stated that he was in no hurry to find a new mentor on the tour. Back in May he ended his collaboration with Dani Vallverdu after almost three years working together. He made the decision shortly before he exited the world’s top 50 for the first time since 2012.

“I’m not in a panic right now to find a coach. I always think that when I don’t have someone beside me, it’s hard to train. However, in the past months, I have done things myself that I have not done.” Dimitrov told reporters in November.
“You need to have freedom, to find yourself, to become closer to yourself.” He added.

Despite Stepanek stepping away, Dimitrov is still in contact with eight-time grand slam champion Agassi. Agassi is not a coach to the Bulgarian, but has agreed to a sort of consultation role where the two talk with each other regularly.

Dimitrov has experienced a roller coaster run on the tour this season with a win-loss record of 22-21. At one stage he failed to win back-to-back matches at six consecutive tournaments over the summer. However, his form surged during the last quarter of 2019 where he reached the semi-finals at both the US Open and Paris Masters.

Neither Dimitrov or Groh has yet confirmed their new partnership on the tour. Groh has recently been working as a consultant for the United States Tennis Association (USTA).

Heading into the new season, the first test for the duo will be at the ATP Cup in Australia. As well as playing, Dimitrov is the captain of the Bulgarian team.

Groh’s coaching CV

  • 2011: Michael Berrer
  • 2012-2013: Tommy Haas
  • 2014: Bradley Klahn and Taylor Fritz
  • 2015: Tommy Haas and Taylor Fritz
  • ATP/WTA Players and United States Tennis Federation Player Development since 2015
    Source -ATP/Linkldn

UPDATE*

Since the publication of this article, Ubitennis has received some additional details on Dimitrov’s work with Groh. The editor of TennisKafe.com, Borislav Orlinov, confirmed it was Dimitrov’s manager (Georgi Stoimenov) who revelled the two will be working together. They are currently training in Monte Carlo, but will head to Australia before the New Year.

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Rival Backs Dominic Thiem To Win Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award

Only two players have won the award since 2004.

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For the past 15 years only two players have managed to get their hands on the prestigious Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award, but one player thinks there could be a brand new winner this year.

 

Diego Schwartzman has lent his support behind world No.4 Dominic Thiem. The award recognizes those who have conducted the highest level of professionalism and integrity on the ATP Tour throughout the season. Established in 1977, Roger Federer has won the honour in 13 out of the past 15 years. The only other player to triumph during that period was Rafael Nadal, who won it in 2010 and 2018.

“I think Thiem can win it, he showed throughout the year a competitiveness and a respect with everyone that was spectacular,” Schwartzman told ole.com. “On top of that he is having great years of his career and this season was even better for the achievements he had.’
“He has a good chance of winning it.” He added.

Schwartzman, who reached the quarter-finals of the US Open earlier this year, has also been shortlisted for the award. Along with regular nominees Federer and Nadal. Only once has an Argentinian player won the title, which was José Luis Clerc back in 1981. At that time it was known as the ATP Sportsmanship award before getting renamed in 1996.

“I learned first (of getting nominated) through social networks rather than the official designation that the ATP sends you by mail.” The 27-year-old revealed.
“It is more spectacular than anything for the players I have next to me. It is a very important prize that recognizes a little what you do off the court, not only hitting the ball.”

Whilst he is dreaming of winning the honour himself, Schwartzman is just happy that he has been nominated.

“If I won this award, it would be spectacular. Now I am on that payroll that is very good and represents the values ​​that I try to maintain on a day-to-day basis and that (my coaching teams over the years) have taught me. It is very nice to be recognized for that. “ He concluded.

The four nominees for the Stefan Edberg Award was shortlisted by the ATP. However, it will be the players who will decide the winner. The result will be revealed later this month.

Multiple winners of the Stefan Edberg/ATP Sportsmanship award

Roger Federer – 13
Stefan Edberg – 5
Pat Rafter – 4
Alex Corretja – 2
Todd Martin – 2
Paradorn Srichaphan – 2
Rafael Nadal – 2

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Kei Nishikori In Doubt For The Australian Open

Asia’s highest ranked male tennis player is contemplating when he should return to the tour following surgery.

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Kei Nishikori (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

World No.13 Kei Nishikori is refusing to rule out the prospect of skipping the first grand slam event of 2020 as he continues his recovery from surgery.

 

Nishikori hasn’t played a match on the tour since his third round loss at the US Open back in September. A month later he underwent a procedure on his right elbow in a move that brought his season to an early end. Currently undergoing rehabilitation, it is unclear as to when the Japanese player believes he will return to the ATP Tour.

“The prospect of a return from surgery on right elbow in January. Maybe February. In the second half of next year I want to be able to play well.” Nikkan Sports quoted Nishikori as saying.
“I don’t want to overdo it,” he added.

The Australian Open will get underway on January 20th in Melbourne. Should he miss the grand slam, it will be the second time he has done so in the last three years. Nishikori also withdrew from the 2018 edition due to a wrist injury. In January he reached the quarter-finals and therefore has 360 points to defend next year.

During his time away from the court, the 29-year-old has been kept busy making changes to his team. Recently it was confirmed that he has started working alongside Max Mirnyi, who is a former world No.1 doubles player. Mirnyi, who has won 10 grand slam titles in men’s and mixed doubles, will be working full-time with Nishikori alongside existing coach Michael Chang.

“I’m getting closer to retirement. I want to be cured and come back to play good tennis in the second half of next year.” Nishikori stated.

Despite the injury setback, Nishikori has enjoyed success in 2019. Reaching the quarter-finals in three out of the four grand slam tournaments. The first time he has ever done that in his career. He also claimed his 12th ATP title at the Brisbane International. Overall, he won 29 out of 43 matches played.

Nishikori will turn 30 on December 29th.

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