Right now, Brad Dancer doesn’t plan to spend July 14 in London.
If the Illinois men’s tennis coach, however, has a reason to attend the men’s final of Wimbledon, he’ll gladly hop on a plane and make the trip across the Atlantic Ocean.
“I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” Dancer said.
Dancer made the unexpected jaunt to Wimbledon last July when one of his former players, Kevin Anderson, became the story of the All England Club — and, for a few days, the sports world — with his stunning ascent at Wimbledon.
Having never gone past the fourth round during his previous nine appearances at Wimbledon, Anderson rallied for an improbable five-set quarterfinal win against one of the game’s legends, eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer. He then outlasted American John Isner in a semifinal match that lasted five sets and more than six hours before falling to Novak Djokovic in straight sets during the final. Djokovic ended up winning his fourth Wimbledon title, while Anderson gained some newfound respect.
That has translated into the 33-year-old Anderson receiving the fourth seed this year at Wimbledon entering his first-round match on Monday against 28-year-old Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France.
This despite the fact Anderson has only played in four events in 2019, with an elbow injury causing him to miss most of the spring. After winning the Maharashtra Open in India in early January, Anderson was bounced in the second round of the Australian Open less than two weeks later and didn’t play again until the Miami Open in mid-March. He lost to Federer in the quarterfinals in Miami, but then didn’t play again for three months and lost in the second round of the Fever-Tree Championships in mid-June in London.
Even with Anderson’s limited play so far in 2019, Dancer anticipates Anderson to play well in his return to Wimbledon.
“He should be drumming with confidence,” Dancer said. “It’s always tricky when you’ve played so little coming into a big tournament, but I’m guessing the All England Club is going to put him on show courts based on his seeding. Walking back out there is going to feel special to him. My guess is that it rekindles some feelings that are difficult to duplicate, so even with Kev not getting as much match prep, I expect him to be locked in.”
The strength of Anderson’s game relies on his powerful serve. The 6-foot-8 Anderson compiled 173 aces en route to reaching the Wimbledon final last year — his second-ever final appearance at a Grand Slam after he lost the 2017 U.S. Open to Rafael Nadal — and how he takes advantage of that skill could play a significant role in how long his stay at Wimbledon lasts this year.
“He wants to play as many points as possible where the point is being decided in the first two shots,” Dancer said. “That’s where he excels. When he has the pressure on opponents, he needs to let loose on his return game and keep guys uncomfortable.”
Only Djokovic, Nadal and Federer are seeded higher than Anderson, with Anderson potentially meeting Djokovic in the semifinals if the seeds hold true and either Nadal or Federer in the final.
Should either of those scenarios arise, with Anderson playing well into the second week, Dancer knows what travel plans he may have to make.
“The only change I’d make is that I’d try to sneak a few more days in Iceland on the way home because that place rocks,” Dancer said. “Last year was incredible because Wimbledon is that tournament. It’s like the Rose Bowl. There’s just something different about it.”
Here’s how former Illini Kevin Anderson has fared in the past on the grass courts at Wimbledon:
2018: Lost in final
2017: Lost in fourth round
2016: Lost in first round
2015: Lost in fourth round
2014: Lost in fourth round
2013: Lost in third round
2012: Lost in first round
2011: Lost in second round
2010: Lost in first round
2008: Lost in first round