Johannesburg - Kevin Anderson reaching the Wimbledon men’s singles final has stirred South African nationalistic fervour.
However, it is worth noting that the adoration bestowed on Anderson as a South African flag-bearer may, in some ways, be misplaced.
A patriot is someone who shows vigorous support for and devotion to one’s country, writes Justin Brown from the City Press.
Anderson has largely shunned the opportunity to represent South Africa in the Davis Cup on the grounds that such national service would get in the way of his Association of Tennis Players (ATP) career.
The ATP matches pay well, and are worth Anderson’s time and effort, but the Davis Cup, in which the only reward is the honour and satisfaction of representing and giving back to your country, just doesn’t fit the bill.
Anderson could at any time switch allegiance to the US, where he has been a resident since 2005, but he said at Wimbledon that he would “play under the South African flag for the rest of my career”.
Up to a point, it is understandable that Anderson could not be bothered to travel the long distance from Florida, where he lives in the US, for South African Davis Cup duty. However, if he made the effort to support the South African Davis Cup team, he would certainly endear himself to the South African public. His effective boycott, since 2011, when it comes to representing his country in the event is rare in modern tennis.
One also gets a sense that Anderson may have had a poor relationship with the local governing body, Tennis SA (TSA), and this may be the key reason he opted to drop the tournament from his schedule.
All the major stars playing in the ATP men’s singles circuit have contributed to the success of their Davis Cup teams. Switzerland’s Roger Federer, Spain’s Rafael Nadal, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic and the UK’s Andy Murray have played significant roles in helping their countries win the Davis Cup.
If the ATP’s biggest stars can fit the Davis Cup into their schedules, surely Anderson can do the same? Two other top ATP players who have excluded themselves from Davis Cup representation are Argentina’s Juan Martín del Potro and Australia’s Bernard Tomic.
In 2014, Del Potro refused to play in the Davis Cup due to differences of opinion with the Argentine Tennis Association. Last year, he said it was more important for him to “be healthy and not to suffer any wrist or hip injuries”, according to the Tennis World USA website. Tomic has been known to be unsportsmanlike, playing half-hearted matches or even giving up, and his erratic nature has seen him blacklisted from Australian Davis Cup representation.
Raven Klaasen, South Africa’s top doubles player who made the Wimbledon doubles final, has been a regular participant in South African Davis Cup fixtures.
Lloyd Harris, South Africa’s second highest ranked player on the ATP men’s singles circuit, has also been a regular Davis Cup participant.
Wayne Ferreira, the best South African men’s singles player before Anderson’s emergence, was a loyal supporter of the local Davis Cup team.
Anderson can’t argue that he doesn’t have the financial means to travel to South Africa from anywhere in the world. His ATP profile shows his career earnings stand at $13.1 million (R176 million), including almost $2.9 million won this year.
TSA tried to find a sponsor to pay the costs associated with travelling to and participating in Davis Cup fixtures, but Anderson spurned the offer.
“The unfortunate reality is that the current scheduling and format of the Davis Cup would require me to make major sacrifices in the way of travel, training, rehabilitation and preparation for major tournaments,” Anderson said in a blog post in 2015.
South Africa’s Davis Cup team could do with Anderson’s participation as it is languishing at 42 out of 132 teams in the Davis Cup rankings.
Isn’t it time for Anderson to support the South African Davis Cup team now that he is No 5 in the world?