South Africa’s 2018 Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson says despite a succession of injury problems in recent years he “never felt in” his “heart” his career was over.
The 35-year-old has battled knee problems over the past two years but set those setbacks and poor recent form on grass aside to beat Chilean Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) on Monday.
Anderson, whose ranking has slipped from the heady days of being five in the world to 102, has the daunting task of playing world number one Novak Djokovic in the second round, a repeat of their 2018 Wimbledon final.
However, the big serving Anderson says even in the dark days these sort of matches and his own desire kept him going.
“I never really thought of quitting,” he said.
“The uncertainty because of the injuries made it more about frustration coming through.
“I never felt in my heart I was through, the moment when that happens will be on my own terms.”
Anderson, also a finalist at the 2017 US Open, says he has a positive outlook on the future.
“I feel great, I have a terrific team and support around me which has helped me through to where things are right now.
“I am very optimistic looking forward to the months and years ahead.
“There have been some tough moments in the last couple of years but the desire has always been there and I still love playing.”
Anderson said he felt good after his victory and came as a relief.
“The body feels alright after playing four sets,” he said.
“There are always little bits and pieces going on but nothing major which is great.
“I am really pleased with the performance as I have had a tough few weeks on grass with some losses.
“So to turn that around there are a ton of positives and I am really happy with that and pleased to get through the match.”
Anderson said he would focus on the Djokovic match on Tuesday and he just wanted to enjoy Monday’s victory.
However, he said despite the one-sided nature of Djokovic’s title win in the 2018 final (6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7/3) he had the belief in himself he can defeat the Serb when they meet.
“One of the biggest things that these guys (Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal) possess is self belief,” he said.
“Often they have won their matches before they set foot on the court.
“I know what it takes to play these guys and I have a lot of self belief in myself.
“Novak is a fighter and the match will not be easy but I look forward to the challenge.”
Meanwhile Anderson’s compatriot, Lloyd Harris, was leading Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis 6-3, 6-4 when the match was halted by rain on Monday.
Results from day 1 of Wimbledon on Monday (x denotes seeded player):
First round
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Jack Draper (GBR) 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2
Kevin Anderson (RSA) bt Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera (CHI) 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4)
Andreas Seppi (ITA) bt Joo Sousa (POR) 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2
Denis Kudla (USA) bt Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP x30) 5-7, 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 6-3
Pedro Martnez (ESP) bt Stefano Travaglia (ITA) 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4
Liam Broady (GBR) bt Marco Cecchinato (ITA) 6-3, 6-4, 6-0
Jiri Vesely (CZE) bt Yannick Hanfmann (GER) 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (7/5)
Mrton Fucsovics (HUN) bt Jannik Sinner (ITA x19) 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 6-3
Andrey Rublev (RUS x5) bt Federico Del Bonis (ARG) 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2
Frances Tiafoe (USA) bt Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE x3) 6-4, 6-4, 6-3
Vasek Pospisil (CAN) bt Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP) 6-3, 6-3, 6-3
Karen Khachanov (RUS x25) bt Mackenzie McDonald (USA) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3)
Andy Murray (GBR) bt Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO x24) 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3
Dominik Koepfer (GER) bt Reilly Opelka (USA x27) 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 6-2
Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) bt Facundo Bagnis (ARG) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/1)
Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP x8) bt John Millman (AUS) 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4)
First round
Kristie Ahn (USA) bt Heather Watson (GBR) 2-6, 7-6 (7/3), 8-6
Sloane Stephens (USA) bt Petra Kvitova (CZE x10) 6-3, 6-4
Lauren Davis (USA) bt Jodie Burrage (GBR) 6-2, 6-1
Madison Keys (USA x23) bt Katie Swan (GBR) 6-3, 6-4
Viktorija Golubic (SUI) bt Veronika Kudermetova (RUS x29) 3-6, 6-1, 11-9
Danielle Collins (USA) bt Polona Hercog (SLO) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
Sofia Kenin (USA x4) bt Wang Xinyu (CHN) 6-4, 6-2
Iga Swiatek (POL x7) bt Su-Wei Hsieh (TPE) 6-4, 6-4
Irina-Camelia Begu (ROM) bt Katie Volynets (USA) 6-4, 7-5
Lesley Kerkhove (NED) bt Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) 6-3, 6-3
Garbine Muguruza (ESP x11) bt Fiona Ferro (FRA) 6-0, 6-1
Elena Rybakina (KAZ x18) bt Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 6-4, 6-0
Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS x32) bt Laura Siegemund (GER) 6-1, 6-3
Mara Camila Osorio (COL) bt Anna Kalinskaya (RUS) 1-6, 6-0, 6-4
Katie Boulter (GBR) bt Danielle Lao (USA) 6-7 (6/8), 6-3, 6-4
Aryna Sabalenka (BLR x2) bt Monica Niculescu (ROM) 6-1, 6-4
Note: all other matches either cancelled or suspended due to rain and bad light.