Kevin Curren's nationality confusion cleared up

Kevin Curren (Gallo Images)
Kevin Curren (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Following Kevin Anderson's dramatic run to the 2018 Wimbledon final, confusion has surrounded the answer to the question: When last did a South African reach the showpiece match at SW19?

History books have been consulted, Wikipedia has been Googled, but here's the definitive answer!

Kevin Anderson is the first South African to reach the men's singles final at Wimbledon since 1921.

The last South African player to do so - 97 years ago - was Brian Norton who lost in five sets - 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-0, 7-5 - to American great Bill Tilden.

Those glued to the live TV broadcast on SuperSport the past few days would've heard commentators make mention of the above fact. They are correct.

Those with memories good enough to date back 33 years to 1985 will recall watching a brash, 17-year-old German teenager named Boris Becker burst onto the scene in sensational fashion when he defeated Kevin Curren 6-3, 6-7 (7/4), 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 in the Wimbledon final.

In that final, Curren represented the United States having become a naturalised American citizen in April 1985 - a mere two months before the start of that year's Wimbledon tournament.

In 1983, when Curren reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon, he still represented his country of birth, South Africa.

Worth mentioning is that in 1984 - still as a South African player - Curren lost 6-7 (7/5), 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 in the Australian Open final to Swedish great Mats Wilander.

The last South African player - male or female - to reach a Wimbledon singles final was Sandra Reynolds in 1960 when she lost in straight sets - 8-6, 6-0 - to Brazil's Maria Bueno.

The Curren situation is exactly the same as the situation behind Johan Kriek's back-to-back Australian Open victories.

In 1981, Kriek won the Australian Open - playing as a South African.

The following year he defended his title Down Under - playing under the USA flag - having become a naturalised American citizen in August 1982.

Ordinarily, that would've been after the 1982 Australian Open, which is now played in January of each year, but the tournament that year was contested between November 29 and December 13.

Whether the decisions by Kriek and Curren to seek United States citizenship had anything to do with the political situation in South Africa at the time and the sporting sanctions that existed, is unclear.

Kriek currently resides in the USA where he runs a tennis academy, while Curren has split his time over the years between the USA and South Africa.

Confusion over. Hopefully.

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