Born in a country where apartheid tore communities apart, South African pro Kevin Anderson understands what it means to be different, and the weight of it. He has witnessed it firsthand.
He has parlayed that perspective into new insights about what it would mean if an ATP Tour player—yeah, one in the upper echelon even—were to come out as gay in his active playing days.
"There is definitely a stigma attached to it," he tells The Guardian. "Society historically has not been very welcoming. Times are changing because people are talking, which is great, but it will take somebody to break that trend. It won’t be easy. It will take a lot of courage. But hopefully if we can be more welcoming it might make it a little bit easier.
What a wonderful feature @JacobSteinberg! Highlights many of the issues near and dear to our hearts. Read Kev’s thoughts on how tennis can improve with respect to inclusivity, environment, compensation & more ????♻️???????? https://t.co/oVyBw3ufiL— Kelsey Anderson (@KelseyOAnderson) June 16, 2019
Anderson continued with his Guardian interviewer: "One person doing it might open the gates for others. In the US with team sports, there have been a couple of players who have come out. Jason Collins, who was the first NBA player to come out, said one of his biggest challenges was worrying about his teammates. But once he did it and his teammates were supportive of him, it helped others.
"Tennis is individual, so the dynamics are different," Anderson says, echoing the perspective of many regarding this topic over the past two decades. "My hope is players collectively create an environment where someone feels comfortable. It's about having good awareness. Jason spoke about this a lot. It's small things, like saying: 'That’s so gay.'"
Anderson, presently No. 8 in the ATP rankings, will seek to follow up his 2018 Wimbledon performance—in which he overcame Roger Federer and John Isner to make the championship round—with a similar showing over the impending fortnight.