May 8, 2003
by Simit Shah
It’s been a family affair on the tennis courts for Georgia Tech this spring. Senior Roger Anderson has captained the men’s team to its third straight NCAA Tournament berth, while his younger sister Kelly has emerged as a freshman phenom for the Lady Jackets, who extended their tournament appearance streak to four.
The siblings from Pietermaritzburg, South Africa aren’t just any brother-sister act. Neither Tech tennis program had produced an Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year until Roger Anderson won the award in 2000 after 24 wins. Three years later, his sister has accomplished the same feat.
Kelly Anderson took the ACC by storm after enrolling at Tech in January. She’s not even in the media guide, but she ended up tied for the team lead with a 13-5 dual-match record. She and senior Jaime Wong teamed to form the squad’s top doubles team, and they are currently ranked 43rd in the nation.
The Lady Jackets (13-6) travel to Southern California to play Big West champions Cal Poly Friday.
Roger Anderson is capping his career in fine form, earning all-ACC honors for the third consecutive season. He is the nation’s 26th-ranked singles player, earning a berth in the NCAA Individual Championships for the second year in a row. He was also selected for doubles, in which he teams with junior Scott Schnugg to form the nation’s 10th-ranked duo.
Anderson and his teammates face Auburn Saturday in Oxford, Mississippi in the first round of the NCAA Championships.
“Overall, my game has steadily improved and gotten more solid. I’ve learned a lot each year, and it’s paying off,” he said. “The first two years, I was nervous and scared. Now I’m comfortable anytime I’m on the court. I know what to do, and I’ve learned how to win matches.”
“I made a rule that I would never take a player unless I’ve seen him play, but I broke it as soon as I found out about Roger Anderson,” Thorne related. “I was fortunate that it worked out for me. You can do the research, but you hope when they get here on campus and hit a ball, they’re using the right end of the racket. It can be a scary situation.”
Though a top junior player in South Africa, Anderson was unsure if he would have that same success on the American collegiate scene. “To be honest, I had no expectations when I came here,” he said. “I came to work hard and develop my game. The whole college atmosphere and spirit of the game, I’ve thrived on it.”
Thorne noted that Anderson has fully adjusted to his environment and developed both on and off the court in the process.
“I think Georgia Tech teaches you to mature quickly.” Thorne said. “It prepares you for the real world. It makes sure that you are disciplined, and it puts you through so much that you have no choice but to grow up. Roger has done just that.”
Anderson found Georgia Tech to be such a great situation that he recommended that Kelly enroll, even though she had never visited. “I wanted her to come here, because I knew that she’d fit in perfect with the program and the coaching staff,” he said.
“I was sort of hesitant to come here at first,” Kelly Anderson admitted, “because I was afraid that I might be treading on his toes, but it’s been the best thing to happen.”
Having an 18-year-old sister in tow is probably something most college seniors dread, but Roger Anderson has embraced the chance to be around family. He’s returned to South Africa just a handful of times the last four years, and his mother has been able to visit just once. His sister’s presence has cured his homesickness.
“This last year, I’ve really been missing my family and roots in South Africa,” he said. “Now that Kelly is here, I feel a lot better.”
“I think it’s helped her to have him,” added Thorne. “I think it’s nice for him to see a family member here, and there’s no doubt it’s been a positive thing for Roger. We’re happy to have her here. She’s a great student and a terrific tennis player.
“Their parents did a great job of raising them. Having both of them here is a big plus for Georgia Tech.”
Roger Anderson has set the bar high, but he thinks his sister will have no problem surpassing his accomplishments.
“I just want see her grow as much as I’ve developed,” he said. “She is going to do even better than I have. I really believe that.”