Kevin Anderson on mental strength, net play, and the US Open

South Africa's Kevin Anderson has credited mental conditioning for his ability to focus for nearly seven hours during his epic Wimbledon semifinal against American John Isner, and lauds his psychologist for his recent surge in form.

Anderson, who has reached a career-high ATP ranking of 5 in the wake of his SW19 final appearance, is 32 now, but has reached his peak at an age when most players are trending downwards.

Despite losing to Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the final, his record-breaking match against Isner, six hours and 35 minutes long, was the culmination of rigorous mental and physical preparation, thanks in large part to Florida-based mental coach Alexis Castorri.

The therapist, who hails from Fort Lauderdale, has also worked with the likes of Andy Murray and Simona Halep, who won her first Grand Slam title at the fourth time of asking.

Anderson advocates the value of putting mental work and visualization into practice, telling KweséESPN: "My dad, Mike, who coached me when I was growing up, was big into the mental side of sport. He always spoke about believing in yourself more than anything.

"As I carried on in my career, I paid more attention to that and working with Alexis has been great. My focus is now on how I can become an even better mental competitor because that is what it really boils down to.

"It's about being able to hit the ball really well in the big moments, regardless of who your opponent may be and what is going on out there. I feel I'm constantly getting better in that department and it'll be a focus of mine going forward."

Anderson has been lauded for his stamina and mental toughness and entered Sunday's final having played more than 21 hours of tennis in the tournament. However, it has been suggested that he almost seemed resigned to losing the final after the gruelling nature of the Isner epic.

Anderson admits that nerves, even more than physical fatigue, got the better of him in the opening two sets, and he was unable to find his rhythm and comfort level until the third set.

"Going into the match I wasn't feeling amazing physically, but I felt like I was okay in order to give myself a decent chance," he says.

"Unfortunately, I failed to discover my rhythm in the first two sets and the feeling of being comfortable out on the court eluded me early on in the match. It took me two sets to find form, but I thought I played a really good third set."

There was a moment in the third when it looked like Anderson's game had kicked into gear and he was going to pull back a set. He had five set points, but Djokovic showed his experience to save them all and control the tiebreaker.

"I had quite a few set points to take it to four sets," Anderson reflects. "I would have loved that to have happened, but unfortunately it wasn't meant to be. Novak hit a couple of balls, I thought were actually travelling out of the court, which ended up landing right on the line."

Anderson, the first South African to reach a Wimbledon men's final, is philosophical in terms of what went wrong against Djokovic, and refuses to self-flagellate. After a career-defining tournament and an "incredibly special two weeks," the understated star prefers to focus on the positives.

The big-serving player is intent on adding further strings to his bow in order to consistently challenge the best players in the business, highlighting a need to take the game closer to the net after he went against his normal instincts and did so against Nolé.

"Moving forward, I want to start hitting even more balls at the net. Shortening points is an aspect of my game, which I believe I can become much better at," he says.

Having taken home the runners-up plate at the US Open and now Wimbledon, the question is: how close is Anderson to breaking through the ceiling?

"I still have to take a step further, as I have not yet won a Grand Slam title or made it to through to the finals of the Masters Series," he says.

"It's definitely a big goal of mine and, once you put yourself in that position, it's about how you can handle yourself and take the next step. I feel like I'm getting closer to doing that and there is a lot for me to still play for."

In the coming weeks, Anderson will make the adjustment from the grass to the hard courts and is slated to play in the two Masters Series tournaments, in Toronto and Cincinnati. They will serve as precursors to the US Open.

Having tasted defeat in last year's final in the Big Apple, Anderson will be hungrier than ever to get his hands on the coveted trophy at Flushing Meadows.

"I don't know if I'm more determined to win a Grand Slam or ATP title than before because I have always been determined. However, I feel like my belief is greater than it has ever been.

"I believe I have a great shot at being a consistent competitor, who can vie for those titles."