Johannesburg - It was a case of rubbing salt into South Africa's Davis Cup wounds as Kevin Anderson moved up six places in the world rankings this week after the country's top tennis player had declared himself unavailable for the critical Euro-Africa Group One tie against Finland next month.
Anderson has improved his ranking from 114th to 108th and is now closing in on his best-ever international standing, but this will be scant comfort for South Africa's Davis Cup prospects at the Groenkloof Stadium in Pretoria from May 7 to 9 - particularly with Finland's number one, Jarkko Nieminen, continuing to regain his best form after a lengthy spell in which he was hampered by injuries.
More comforting from the latest rankings is the striking improvement of Rik De Voest, who in the absence of Anderson will continue in his role as South Africa's number one in the Davis Cup. De Voest, who at one stage had been ranked in the low 100s, had plummeted to a disquieting 301st place. But a timely success in an ATP Challenger tournament in Canada last week has resulted in De Voest boomeranging back to 206th position.
Meantime, widespread criticsm has greeted Anderson's decision to renage on playing in the Finland tie - with none more vocal than former Davis Cup star Abe Segal, who in 1961 participated in one of the two matches in which South Africa have beaten Finland.
"This is something I simply can't understand," said Segal. "In my time we would have given an arm and a leg to represent South Africa. Now we get a guy who says it is more important to go off and participate in some nondescript tournamewnt in the bundu.
"The kids are crying out for a South African tennis hero," added Segal, who recently demonstrated his penchant for not pulling punches in an entertaining book titled "Hey Big Boy"
"What kind of hero is this who refuses to represent his country? "And", concluded Segal, "Anderson is only damaging his own prospects of making the big-time. Surely helping South Africa regain a place in the elite Davis Cup World Group would be a lot more beneficial to him than picking up a couple of points in Timbuktu."