Kevin Anderson, welcome to the spotlight.
The 31-year-old South African tennis player is a surprise men's finalist in the 2017 U.S. Open. Anderson was seeded 28th in the men's bracket at the start of the tournament and ranked 32nd in the world in the recent ATP rankings. For most viewers, he will decidedly be simply the guy playing against Rafa when he steps onto Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday afternoon to face Rafael Nadal.
Here are a few things to know about him:
Anderson has never appeared in a Grand Slam final
Anderson has three career ATP singles titles: Johannesburg (2011), Delray Beach (2012), and Winston-Salem (2015).
Anderson and Nadal go way back
Anderson may be in his first ever Grand Slam final, but he and Nadal have some experience together, even as youngsters. In professional matchups, Nadal holds a 4-0 edge.
Rafael Nadal-Kevin Anderson for #USOpen men’s final (4 ET, ESPN/ESPN app). Nadal owns a 4-0 edge in their head-to-head matches.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 10, 2017
He is a historic, but not unprecedented, underdog
Anderson is very, very tall.
At 6'8, Anderson is the tallest finalist ever in a Grand Slam. He is the same height as LeBron James.
But he can get to the net
Yes, he also has the requisite big-dude forehand
But don't sleep on that backhand
Lovie Smith and the Illini are rooting for him
Anderson was a three-time All-American in singles and two-time All-American in doubles at the University of Illinois. He is the first Illini to reach a Grand Slam final.
He has a philosophy of fist pumping
After the booking a spot in the final, Anderson was asked about his penchant for pumping his fist:
I don't know. Yeah, I was asked a few times. You know, I feel like it allows me to play better tennis. That's something I have always been looking, you know, at any edge I can get.
Everybody talks about how important the mental side is, so the faster you can reset after a point that maybe hasn't gone your way, maybe a missed opportunity, definitely the better.
When you've played a good point and sort of acknowledging that also has a lot of positive, you know, effect that increases your confidence level.
So, you know, I think at first it took me a little bit of while, but as I have been playing more and more matches, it feels more and more comfortable.
I'm not sort of too aware of it right now. I feel like I'm putting more out there and I feel like it allows me to play better tennis, and it's something I am definitely going to look to continue.
His first pet was a poodle
The first pet I had was a little Maltese poodle, her name was Lulu. We got her when I was six. We always laughed because she cost like 60 rand, which is like $8. But I think she passed on some sort of bacterial something to me, because I ended up having my appendix taken out because of her. I don't want to blame her for it without concrete proof but we ended up laughing about it. The doctor said there was a good chance it might have been from the puppy, so she ended up costing us a little bit more [than $8] but she was great. She was my childhood dog so obviously we had a lot of memories with her.