Johannesburg - Top South African tennis player Kevin Anderson may be at the crossroads of his career when next week's Australian Open gets underway.
The first Grand Slam of the year will provide him with an opportunity to end a slump which threatens to topple him from his 20th position in the world rankings.
The 27-year-old, big-serving Anderson has now failed to progress beyond the second round in any of his last 10 events - culminating in a dismal 7-5, 6-4 defeat against the 160th-ranked Steve Johnson in his opening game of the Auckland Open this week.
After a string of impressive performances during the first half of 2013, which paved the way for his career-high 19, and year-end 20 in the rankings, Anderson's form tottered alarmingly towards the end of the year.
He has won only three of his last 13 matches - with one of them being a walkover against the injured Mikhail Youzhny. He suffered several defeats against lower-ranked players he would have expected to beat at a canter.
A virus infection forced him to withdraw from the Brisbane International tournament last week and alarm bells started ringing with the early defeat against US journeyman Johnson in New Zealand, where his coach resides and in a country Anderson has likened to a home from home.
Anderson progressed to the last-16 stage of Grand Slam events in Australia and France for the first time in his career in 2013.
Having failed to secure a victory thus far in 2014, Anderson's placing is already destined to drop when next week's rankings are announced.
He would need to at least progress to the fourth round of the upcoming Australian Open not to suffer a further drop in points.
On a positive note for Anderson, his ranking will ensure he secures one of the 32 seeded places at the Open, avoiding the world's top players in the opening two rounds and providing him an opportunity to springboard to better things in the New Year.