Anderson faces tough hurdle
Johannesburg - It will be a tough battle for the South African contingent when the US Open Grand Slam tennis extravaganza gets underway at Flushing Meadows in New York on Monday.
Top South African player Kevin Anderson, following a succession of poor ATP tournament results this month, failed to secure one of the 32 seeded places for the men's singles.
His world ranking slipped from a career-high 28th at the start of the year to its current 35th position.
This meant Anderson found himself vulnerable to the whims of the 128-man draw procedure, with the consequent outcome a grim and daunting first-round match against fourth-seeded Spanish dynamo David Ferrer, whose indefatigable baseline game has earned him a No 5 world ranking.
Apart from what has been termed "The Big Four", namely current world No 1 Roger Federer, defending United States Open champion Novak Djokovic, the injured and indisposed Rafael Nadal and Olympic Games gold medallist Andy Murray, the nuggety Ferrer is regarded the toughest man to beat on the ATP circuit right now.
And the intriguing opening round match between the Spanish No 2 and South Africa's No 1 is likely to evolve into a battle between Ferrer's superb penchant for returning serves and the booming deliveries of the 6ft 7in Anderson.
Anderson is the only South Africa to have gained a place in the men's singles main draw, in spite of Rik De Voest beating Izak van der Merwe 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in an unlikely match-up between the two South African Davis Cup players in an opening-round qualifying game.
De Voest, however, failed to continue on a winning course in the qualifying rounds and went down 6-1 7-6 (7/5) to articulate Brazilian baseliner Ricardo Mello.
Meanwhile, South Africa only has a single representative in the women's singles main draw as well, with the 42nd world-ranked Chanelle Scheepers having a tough opening-round game on her hands against 14th-seeded Maria Karilenko.
For South Africans generally, it is a bleak scenario compared to the days when former men's singles finalist Eric Sturgess, Cliff Drysdale, Johan Kriek, Wayne Ferreira and Amanda Coetzer, among others, were able to hold their own with many of the world's top players in the US Open.