South Africa’s Kevin Anderson has an opportunity to go deep at this year’s US Open.
Anderson, who is seeded 28th for the year’s final Grand Slam, sailed into the third round with a straight-sets victory over Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis on Wednesday.
The South African No 1, whose progress was halted by injuries over the last two seasons, has experienced a resurgence in the last few months which has seen his ranking improve to such an extent that he was seeded for the Flushing Meadows spectacle.
Anderson’s best result to date at a major came at the 2015 US Open when he reached the quarter-finals after upsetting Briton Andy Murray in the fourth round.
That result catapulted Anderson to a career-high ranking of No 10, before the injury curse struck - so much so that his ranking dipped to a lowly 80th in January this year.
But the 6-foot-8 (2.03m) beanpole is back to full fitness and slowly regaining the form that took him to the world’s top 10 two years ago.
Anderson will also be buoyed by the relatively open draw he finds himself in at the US Open.
Anderson was scheduled to play rising German superstar Alexander Zverev in the third round, before Zverev was upended by fellow young gun Borna Coric of Croatia.
Zverev boasts a 4-0 head-to-head win record against Anderson, with three of those victories coming in 2017.
The German, who won this month's Montreal Masters, was also the bookmakers’ third favourite for the title behind Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Anderson would have been up against it against Zverev, but will be confident of getting past world No 61 Coric, against whom he holds a 2-0 head-to-head advantage.
The tournament was already affected by four of the world's top 11 players pulling out prior to the start due to injury, before second seed and 2012 champion Andy Murray threw the cat among the pigeons by withdrawing after the draw was made.
Murray's late withdrawal - after the draw was conducted - made it impossible to rejig the fact that top-seeded Nadal and No 3 Federer were in the same half of the draw - and on a collision course for the semi-finals rather than what could've been a dream final.
With fourth-seed Zverev ousted, it leaves No 5 seed and 2017 Wimbledon runner-up Marin Cilic as the highest seeded player left in the bottom half of the draw.
The other remaining seeded players above Anderson in his part of the draw include Americans John Isner (10th seed) and Sam Querrey (17th), Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta (No 12), Frenchman Lucas Pouille (No 16) and Germany’s Mischa Zverev (23rd).
These are all accomplished pros, but players against whom Anderson will feel he has a legitimate shot at beating.
Should Anderson get past Coric, he will face an unseeded Italian - either Thomas Fabbiano or Paolo Lorenzi - for a spot in the quarter-finals.
A quarter-final berth for Anderson could mean a clash against Isner, the 6-foot-10 American, with Cilic possibly lying in wait in the semi-finals.
There’s no doubt there's still a lot of tennis to be played, but 31-year-old Anderson will know that this is perhaps his best chance at making a deep run at a Grand Slam.
As is often the case in tennis, the luck of the draw plays a large part in the outcome of tournaments, and the 2017 US Open is an opportunity for several players to stake a claim.
For the record, the last time a South African made the semi-finals of a Grand Slam was when Wayne Ferreira reached the last four at the 2003 Australian Open.
Herman Mostert works at Sport24, is a struggling golfer and enjoys tennis...
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