IT WAS a day when his ability to overcome nerves worked in Kevin Anderson’s favour.
Admitting he had been throw off kilter by the opportunity to make it into the fourth round at Wimbledon for the first time in six attempts and set up a meeting with the defending champion in the process, the South African says he was even more nervous afterwards when he introduced himself to one of his heroes.
“I just bumped into Ricky Gervais upstairs, and I’m one of his biggest fans.”
Asked how he would prepare himself for Monday’s meeting with the crowd favourite Andy Murray, it transpired that rather than pump himself up with some rap music or thumping rock tunes, he may opt for some light relief instead. “Maybe I’ll watch some of his stand up shows; some of his gigs with Karl Pilkington, I’m a huge fan. I went and introduced myself. It was great. I was a little nervous. My hand started sweating. It’s just funny, when you’re not used to something it’s amazing what you get nervous about.”
Those nerves had manifested themselves in a tight back and a rollercoaster match out on Court No 17. He lost the first set but eventually wore down Fabio Fognini in five sets, winning 4-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 to land the dream tie against Murray and become the first South African to make it this far in the competition in 14 years. The magnitude of what was at stake was a restricting factor in his battle past the Italian.
“It was weird. I think I was a little nervous going out. Obviously it’s a big match, a match that I thought if I stuck to my game I was going to have a good chance of getting through. It was my first time being in this position here at Wimbledon, and just got a little stiff and affected the serve right from warming up. So I was a little bit nervous. The more nervous I got the worse the back felt. Fortunately it settled down. But I’m happy that I’ve got two days off to get it feeling better. I think maybe I was a bit stressed. I was playing to be in the fourth round for the first time. I was playing against a tough opponent, but one I felt pretty confident against.
“Maybe I was just stressing myself out a little bit too much. Coming out, I think a lot of players feel that way. I think if you didn’t feel that way you would have a bit more to be worried about. It means so much to all of us playing here at such a special tournament. I’m in new territory now. Hopefully in the years to come it will be easier to go out and play those sort of matches.”
But there will be nothing easy about his next match. Likely to be on one of the show court he will be up against the home crowd and Murray, who, unlike Anderson, has shown very few nerves and made relatively light work of getting to this stage.