Cape Town - It might on the surface appear devoid of reason and logic. But top South African tennis player Kevin Anderson has reached a new world ranking milestone of seventh in the new ATP rankings - replacing Dominic Thiem despite being outplayed in a comprehensive 6-4, 6-2 defeat by the Austrian in the semi-finals of the Madrid Masters over the weekend.
In the process, the gangling, 2.03m Anderson has equalled the seventh ranking mark of Johan Kriek, with only Eric Sturgess and Cliff Drysdale (fourth), Kevin Curren (fifth) and Wayne Ferreira (sixth) among South Africans to have scaled a higher world ranking mark.
The leap-frogging by Anderson over Thiem in the rankings, which on the surface might seem to contradict mathematical norms, will be achieved by the fact that the 26-year-old Austrian had also reached the final of the Madrid Masters last year and therefore gained no additional ranking points as a beaten finalist this time.
Anderson, in contrast, made a significant jump compared to 2017 in reaching the Madrid semi-finals - the first occasion he had qualified for a prestigious ATP 1 000 tournament semi-final - after suffering 10 previous quarter-final defeats to earn an extra 315 points for his hard-earned troubles.
It’s some compensation, no doubt, for the loss to an in-form Thiem, who had accounted for the seemingly invincible "King of Clay" and defending champion, Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals.
Going into this week's ATP 1 000 category Italian Open at Rome's famed Foro Italico complex, Anderson will trail only, in order of merit, restored No 1, Roger Federer, Nadal, the new Madrid champion Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov and Juan Martin del Potro - with, no doubt, a thought or two about closing in on the erstwhile achievements of Sturgess, Drysdale, Curren and Ferreira, who remain above him as the only South Africans in the all-time ranking list.