Former Illini tennis star Anderson set to compete at Games

By Jim Shay

It has been a little more than a year since Kevin Anderson packed his bags and bid farewell to the Illinois men’s tennis program.

A collegiate career spent stockpiling slews of awards and titles came to an end when the standout decided to forgo his senior season and join the Association of Tennis Professionals tour.

Now, after a year spent honing his skills on the international stage, Anderson has transformed from an Illini to Olympian. Come Monday, Anderson will be on a plane to Beijing after being selected to represent his native country of South Africa in the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Anderson captured one of six male wildcard places handed out by the International Tennis Federation to players who are not directly accepted to the Olympics but are deemed to be competitive assets to the final field of players.

“It was a little up and down because the (wildcard) invitations get released a little bit later, and you have to be approved by your own national committee so that took some time,” Anderson said.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

From Greece to Italy to Finland, Anderson has spent the summer competing in tournaments around the world.

Though he admittedly “didn’t have the best experience at the French Open” after losing in the qualifying rounds, the No. 95-ranked player in the world did turn in an impressive victory against No. 3 Novak Djokovic at the Sony Ericsson Open in June.

Anderson followed with a quarterfinal appearance in the doubles draw at Wimbledon as he continued to focus on self-improvement.

“At Wimbledon, I actually spent quite a time there practicing and training, and that was definitely really good, being able to not only play there but to practice as well,” Anderson said.

Throughout his young professional career, Anderson has kept in frequent contact with current Illinois men’s tennis head coach Brad Dancer.

After a conversation the two had this past week in Cincinnati, Ohio, Dancer described his travel-worn former player as “excited” about competing on sports’ biggest stage.

“I don’t want to downplay the fact that it’s the Olympics, but this time of year obviously there’s a lot of traveling,” Dancer said. “He’s been all over the world the last few months so I don’t think he’s itching to hop on a plane real quick, but at the same time he’s going to be excited to be part of that and represent his country and really enjoy the experience.”

Anderson will spend two weeks at the Olympic Village in Beijing with athletes from all walks of sport, something he described as “pretty cool, something I’ve never really experienced before.”

But when the world’s best take to the courts at the new Olympic Tennis Center in Beijing on Aug. 10, Anderson will have one thing on his mind – results.

“I think I’ll probably be a little nervous when the time comes, but that’s the same as every match. I think that’s always a good thing. It helps you prepare better,” Anderson said. “It’s going to be a great experience, but at the same time I’m really going there to perform well. My goal is to win a medal.”