Anderson is rising in world rankings

2013-01-20 10:00

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The current generation of SA players has been a disappointment, but this year could be a turning point.

South Africa’s number one male tennis player, Kevin Anderson, started the Australian Open ranked number 31 in the world.

This was five notches higher than his previous ranking, thanks to his current form, which saw him reach the final of the Apia Sydney International by beating Frenchman Julien Benneteau 3-6, 6-4, 7-6.

He was finally overcome by local favourite Bernard Tomic, though, who dispatched him 6-3 6-7, 6-3 to clinch the title last Saturday.

Anderson, who turns 27 this year, had a good start in the Australian Open, defeating Paolo Lorenzi despite losing the first set 3-6, 7-6, 6-3 in the first round on Monday before eliminating Alex Kuznetsov 6-1, 7-5, 6-4 in the second round on Wednesday.

On Friday, he reached his first grand slam fourth-round match after twice fighting back from a set down to beat the 22nd seed, Spaniard Fernando Verdasco,

4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2 at the Hisense Arena.

He was to face Tomas Berdych in the next match this morning.

Things did not go quite so well for South Africa’s top-ranked female player, Chanelle Scheepers, who crashed out of the first round on Monday, losing 6-1, 6-2 to Czech world number 22 Klára Zakopalová.

If world rankings are anything to go by, it is still going to take a long time for a South African to win a grand slam.

Andersen will have to work hard to break into the world top 20, a feat previously achieved by the likes of Kevin Curren in the 1980s and Wayne Ferreira in the 1990s.

Scheepers has an even steeper mountain to climb if she wants to get anywhere near South Africa’s most successful female tennis player, Amanda Coetzer.

The diminutive player flew the South African flag high between 1988-2004 and even earned the nickname “the little assassin” because of her reputation for regularly beating players ranked higher than her.

She entered the top 20 in 1992 and stayed inside it for the better part of the next decade.

The highest ranking of her career was number three in 1997, but 1995 was her most successful year. She defeated three players ranked in the top five in the Canadian Open – Steffi Graf (No 1), Jana Novotná (No 4) and Mary Pierce (No 5) - before finally losing to Monica Seles in the final.

Other major highlights in Coetzer’s career came in 1997 when she reached the Australian Open semifinals for the second consecutive year, defeating world number one Graf in the fourth round.

She then beat Graf for a second time in the quarterfinals at Berlin, handing her her worst-ever loss, 6–0, 6–1, in just 56 minutes.

In the quarterfinals of the French Open she defeated Graf yet again to become one of just six players to beat the German three times in one year, and one of only four to defeat her more than once in grand slam play.

Coetzer and Ferreira won the Hopman Cup for South Africa in 2000. She represented the country in the Fed Cup for six years and made three appearances at the Olympic Games.

Curren, among other triumphs, made two grand slam final appearances, losing a four-set Australian Open encounter to Mats Wilander in 1984 and the other to Boris Becker at Wimbledon the following year.

His best year was 1985. On his way to the Wimbledon final, he beat American giants John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, who were ranked at one and three, respectively. They were dominating tennis at the time and never before had both been beaten by the same man at one grand slam.

Besides winning the Hopman Cup, Ferreira participated in 56 consecutive grand slams between 1991 and 2004.

He won 15 top-level singles titles, 11 doubles titles. His career-high singles ranking was world number six in 1995. In doubles it was world number nine in 2001.

The current crop of South African players have a tough act to follow to earn a place in the hearts of local tennis fans.

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