Cape Town - In what has been a conspicuously bleak year for South African players on the world's major tennis circuits, 33-year-old Raven Klaasen continues to be a shining light.
And on Sunday, the King Williams Town-born doubles specialist proved his mettle once again at the ATP 500 Gerry Weber tournament in Halle by retaining his title with Rajeev Ram.
The South African-USA duo beat second seeded Lukasz Kubot and Alexander Peya 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 in the final - with an even more eye-catching straight-set success against world No 1 and top-seeded doubles combination of Bob and Mike Bryan at the semi-final stage.
It was Klaasen's 10th monumental ATP career title after reaching the semi-finals at both Miami and Geneva earlier this year.
What is more, it assured Klaasen moving up one place to a career-best 16th world doubles ranking at a timely occasion for more than one reason.
Not only did Klaasen retain an ATP title for the first time, but it also materialised on the eve of the prestigious Wimbledon Grand Slam event which gets underway next week.
"There was extra pressure going into the Halle tournament as reigning champions against a strong field to contend with in Germany's grasscourt event," said Klaasen, "because we stood to lose the 500 ranking points we had gained at the tournament last year.
"But I told Rajeev, look let's approach the games in the same way as last year and do everything the same way - and it worked.
"The first set in the final was tightly-fought with no service breaks," he added, "and could have gone either way.
"It needed a little bit of luck to take the set in the tie-breaker and fortunately it came our way. Winning the first set gave us the confidence to take control in the second set."
And considering his current rich vein of form, it was reassuring for South Africa's hopes in the Euro-Africa Group Two Davis Cup tie against Slovakia immediately after Wimbledon that Klaasen confirmed that, in all likelihood, he will be available for this tricky tie as well.
South African Raven Klaasen, touring coach Jeff Coetzee
(also from South Africa) and American player Rajeev Ram after winning the
doubles title of the ATP Gerry Weber Open on Sunday. (Picture credit: Gerry