Cape Town - Local tennis star Kevin Anderson will be looking to build on his solid recent clay form when he opens his Italian Open campaign on Wednesday.
Anderson reached a new career-high world ranking of No 7 on Monday - following an impressive performance at last week’s Madrid Masters.
Anderson made history in the Spanish capital when he reached the semi-final stage of a Masters 1000 tournament for the first time.
He had lost all 10 of his previous quarter-finals at Masters 1000 level - the ATP events rated just below the Grand Slams.
Despite losing to Dominic Thiem in the last-four in Madrid, Anderson gained enough points to move past the Austrian in the world rankings.
Thiem had earlier knocked out clay king Rafael Nadal, but lost in the final to Germany's Alexander Zverev.
At this week’s Masters 1000 event in Rome, the seventh-seeded Anderson will open his campaign against Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene in the second round.
Anderson will favour his chances against the world No 65, having won both their previous meetings on the ATP World Tour.
Anderson beat Bedene in straights sets - 6-3, 7-5, 6-2 - at Wimbledon in 2014 and won a three-set tussle - 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 - at the ATP 250 level event in Sydney in 2013.
A victory over Bedene could see Anderson come up against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta in the third round.
Carreno Busta, the 10th seed in Rome, is an accomplished clay player and will prove an acid test for Anderson.
Anderson boasts a 4-1 head-to-head win record over Carreno Busta, but the Spaniard did win their most recent meeting when he prevailed 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (8/6) at the Miami Masters hard court event earlier this year.
Carreno Busta faces American Steve Johnson in his opening match on Wednesday.
Johnson earlier in the week dispatched three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka, who made his return from a knee ailment.