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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | April 26, 2020

Kevin Anderson saved a match point to knock off Frances Tiafoe in three sets at the Estoril Open on Monday in first-round action. If the former World No.5 from South Africa has his say, the victory will be just the first in a series of stepping stones that will take him back to the top of the sport.

Tennis Express

"Right now I'm still playing to win a Grand Slam and win Masters series," the 34-year-old, who is currently ranked 105, said. "It's what I've spent my whole life working on, obviously that's the pinnacle of our sport. The reality is it's going to be a pathway to get there, so even though those are my goals, in terms of the day to day, that's just something I've done my whole career, I feel like taking it one step at a time, I feel like I keep repeating myself, but I feel like that's just how I always manage these things, you really are going to have to play a lot of good tennis to get back there. I know what it takes, it's not easy, but that's definitely what I'm shooting for.”

Anderson’s ranking is not a product of his ability, but rather his ability to stay healthy. The former Wimbledon and US Open finalist has undergone ankle surgery (2016) and two knee surgeries (2019 and 2020), and has struggled to find rhythm since returning to the tour last August.

He has gone 10-10 since then in last 20 matches, and displayed some great form at times, but good health has proven difficult to maintain. He suffered an injury setback after the Australian Open that delayed his momentum on tour. Anderson was forced to pull out of Acapulco and Miami, as a result.

"Starting out in Australia I felt I had a couple of good matches, pretty tough first-round opponent in Australia (Matteo Berrettini, straight-sets loss), that's how it's going to be not being seeded right now, and then we made the call to spend a bit of time at home and get ready for Acapulco in Miami and unfortunately just literally the day before I left for Acapulco I picked up an injury and that really made life a little bit tough, then I had to give myself some time to get ready for the clay so as a result, coming almost to the end of April I haven't played so many matches, that's what we're really focusing on now, getting as many matches as are possible."

Anderson, a former NCAA Division I star at the University of Illinois and the highest-ranked South African in history, will turn 35 on May 18. He is slated to face Japan's Kei Nishikori in second-round action at Estoril.

On Monday, Anderson saved a match point in the second set tiebreaker (at 5-6) against Tiafoe, and rallied for a 4-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(4) triumph.

"I think I can take a lot of positives today, almost a three-hour match and my body feels good."

Clay may be an unlikely surface for Anderson to have success on, but he feels he is ready to start building some momentum this week.

"I feel like I'm playing really good tennis, it's just about getting that momentum, that self-belief back to where I want it to be, and as always I just feel like it's so important to take it one step at a time,” he said.


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