Sophomore honored as season winds down

Sophomore honored as season winds down

By Amber Greviskes

This season has been nothing but frustrating for sophomore Kevin Anderson.

A standout on the men’s tennis team, he has battled injuries all season, hoping to get back to the same level he was when he was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and earned his first All-American accolade last spring.

In the final Big Ten matches of the regular season, Anderson proved he is back on track and ready to dominate postseason competition, defeating Minnesota’s Nic Edlefsen 6-4, 6-7(7), 1-0 (7).

By defeating his singles opponents, winning doubles and helping Illinois sweep the teams it competed against, Anderson earned a share of the last Big Ten Player of the Week award of the 2006 season. Ohio State’s Scott Green was the other winner of the award.

“When he has been healthy, he has worked very hard and he is playing really well right now and finishing strong, which is great,” said Illinois assistant coach Kent Kinnear.

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    Although honored by the award and pleased with earning recognition in the Big Ten, Anderson said he was more pleased to be playing without pain.

    “It’s just good to be getting back into the swing of things after being injured,” Anderson said.

    Despite not being able to compete in as many matches as he would have liked this year, Anderson has used the time off to improve his game.

    Watching his team compete has allowed him to re-evaluate his playing style and study other athletes’ strengths and weaknesses.

    Sitting out has also given him the motivation he needs to get back to the highest level possible.

    “There are no shortcuts to getting better,” Anderson said. “It has been up and down.”

    Anderson, a native of Johannesburg, South Africa, is one of the country’s brightest tennis prospects.

    He was a member of South Africa’s Davis Cup team this fall. He hopes to compete for South Africa again this summer when the Davis Cup competition resumes. He missed the tie in April because of injuries.

    “It is frustrating for me because I pictured where I wanted to be, but every time I step on the court, I’m not there,” Anderson said.

    But Anderson has a lot to prove to himself – and the nation – before he can compete for his country.

    “You just have to concentrate on what you can take care of,” Anderson said.

    His teammates know that the struggles with injuries have taken their toll on Anderson, but they have not crushed his spirit and determination to get better. He is still, senior Ryler DeHeart said, a very talented tennis player with a lot of potential.

    “He is a great asset to our team,” DeHeart said. “He always works extra hard and puts a lot of extra work in.”

    Although he has professional aspirations, Anderson is more concerned about the Championship portion of the season. He wants to help his team win the NCAA title before the end of the season.

    “Of course, the goal is to win NCAAs,” Anderson said. “There haven’t really been many obstacles (besides injuries).”