Cape Town - Kevin Anderson will rue missing a golden opportunity to reach the semi-final stage of a Masters 1000 tournament for the first time.
This comes after the South African lost 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) to Croatia’s Borna Coric in the Indian Wells quarter-finals on Thursday.
Anderson, the world No 9, was the favourite heading into his match-up with Coric, a player he had never lost to before on the ATP World Tour.
In fact, Anderson had not dropped a set in his three prior victories over Coric, including a straight-sets victory in last year’s US Open - where he made headlines by reaching his maiden Grand Slam final before losing to Spain's Rafael Nadal.
Anderson’s magical run at Flushing Meadows, as well as a solid start to 2018 - which saw him win a title (New York Open) and reach two finals (Acapulco and Pune) - had catapulted the 2.03m beanpole to his highest career ranking of No 8 in February.
Heading into Thursday's match, Anderson had won 97 percent of his service games at the 2018 Indian Wells Masters (38/39 - atpworldtour.com) and when he comfortably won the first set 6-2 against Coric, the odds appeared likely he'd meet world No 1 Roger Federer in the semi-finals.
But the gritty Croatian, the world No 49, fought back to claim the second set before Anderson again took control by leading 4-2 in the decider.
However, Anderson’s killer serve deserted him when it mattered most as he allowed Coric back into the contest before eventually succumbing in a final set tie-break.
According to the ATP World Tour’s official website, Anderson has now lost all nine of his quarter-finals at Masters 1000 level - the ATP events rated just below the Grand Slams.
It was a golden opportunity gone begging for Anderson but he’ll nevertheless be buoyed by his form in 2018.
With several frontline players like Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka struggling with injuries, the draws at these big events appear more open than in recent years.
The 31-year-old Anderson will now set his sights on next week's Miami Masters where another deep run is not out the question.