Anderson earns Big Ten award

By Amber Greviskes

By Amber Greviskes

Senior writer

Illinois freshman Kevin Anderson began his collegiate tennis career in January, but he is already making a name for himself.

Anderson was named the Big Ten Player of the Week on Feb. 10, for his role in Illinois victories over Duke and Texas. Anderson, who is unranked, defeated No. 106 Stephen Amritraj of Duke and the No.15 doubles team of Jonathan Stokke and Peter Rorigues during the teams’ Feb. 4 meeting. On Feb. 5, Anderson topped No. 53 Roger Gubser and defeated Callum Beale and Gubser, Texas’ top doubles team.

Anderson has had only one loss since joining the Illini – a doubles loss against Florida State. He is 8-0 in singles and 6-1 in doubles.

    Subscribe to our sports newsletter!

    “I think it’s something special – not so much the award, but knowing that I’ve actually come in and made a contribution to the team,” Anderson said. “Hopefully I can continue to play the way I’m playing throughout the semester.”

    One of the most impressive aspects of Anderson’s winning streak is not that he has been successful, but that he has been successful while adapting to a completely different environment. In Johannesburg, South Africa – Anderson’s home – tennis is played outside year-round. The courts are different too, Anderson said. The hard courts that dominate the United States tennis venues are much faster than the courts Anderson previously played on. Anderson had never played on a team before joining the Illini, either.

    Illinois associate head coach Brad Dancer credits Anderson’s ability to adapt to his maturity.

    “He came here to continue the work and progress of his game,” Dancer said. “He’s being challenged with that, and we’re going to continue to challenge him. The fact that he has been able to compete well on the weekends when we have competition is great because I think we’re challenging him with a lot of new ideas in practice right now.”

    Since joining the Illini, Anderson said he has focused on improving his serve and transition game. Although Anderson, his coaches and his teammates see daily improvements in his tennis game, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done if Anderson hopes to achieve his goal of being the No. 1 tennis player in the world.

    Anderson said he is focusing on learning to use his height – he is 6-foot-6 – to his advantage. Dancer said Anderson must improve his overall consistency – as well as his balance and movement – if he wants to become one of the world’s best players.

    However, Anderson is confident that his choice to compete for Illinois will make his leap to the professional level easier. He knows that Illinois head coach Craig Tiley has turned many athletes into All-Americans and taught them the skills necessary to be talented professional tennis players.

    “All of those guys have gone on to do what I’m hoping to do in the next few years,” Anderson said. “Hopefully I’ll just keep working hard and, hopefully, I’ll be able to improve a lot.”