LONDON (Reuters) - Returning to the lush grasscourts of Wimbledon proved to be just the tonic Kevin Anderson needed on Monday as the 2018 runner-up buried memories of an injury-hit year by easing into the second round with a 6-3 6-4 6-2 win over Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
The South African, who had played only three tour-level events this year before arriving at Wimbledon due to an elbow injury, moved around a sun-kissed Court Three with ease to dispatch doubles specialist Herbert.
“I’m really, really pleased with the way I played today. I knew it was going to be a tough match. It’s been a very
tough year. But I feel like the way my body felt today is very, very encouraging for me,” Anderson told reporters.
The straight-sets win came as a huge relief to fourth seed Anderson considering Herbert appeared to be in fine form on grass having reached his first tour level semi-final on the surface at the Halle warm-up tournament.
Herbert can now look forward to getting more vocal support from the local fans as he will be back on court alongside Andy Murray this week, with the duo bidding to win the men’s doubles title as the Briton continues his recovery from hip surgery.
Anderson would also have been delighted to get off court with a win that took a mere one hour 46 minutes considering the last time he held aloft his arms in victory at the All England Club — it was after surviving a six-hour 36 minute epic against John Isner in last year’s semi-final.
That marathon match effectively ended his chances of winning the Wimbledon title as it left him with sore and swollen feet, and “jelly-like” legs.
Considering the 43-hour gap he had between the end of his semi-final and the start of the final was not enough to get his battle-weary body ready for the biggest match of his life, Anderson was glad Wimbledon had introduced a new tiebreak rule this year as it would spare others a similar ordeal.
Wimbledon opted to introduce a tiebreak at 12-12 in the final set of singles matches — which had previously been open ended — rather than at 6-6 as is the norm in other sets.
“I feel like if a match is undecided at 6-6 in the fifth, that’s a good time to play a tiebreaker,” said Anderson, whose clash with Isner also had a knock-on effect on the second men’s semi-final as Novak Djokovic needed two days to complete his win over Rafael Nadal due to the delayed start.
“I can completely understand them wanting to find a balance. Overall, it’s a step in the right direction, protecting the players, protecting the schedule as well.”
Next up for the South African is Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic.
Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Ed Osmond