Cape Town - As the current French Open approaches an enthralling climax, the South African contribution has been minimal and muted in comparison to past tournaments at Roland Garros - this notwithstanding up-and-coming Lloyd Harris securing his first-ever victory in the main draw of a Grand Slam event and netting a cool R1.4-million for making it into the second round of the men's singles.
It is now a nostalgic memory recalling the 1940s and 1950s when South Africa's Eric Sturgess was considered one of the world's most formidable clay court exponents, reaching two men's singles finals at the French Open and adding men's and mixed doubles titles to his repertoire of 16 Grand Slam finals overall, with others including Eustace Fannin, Annette van Zyl and Frew McMillan also going on to securing doubles titles at Roland Garros.
South Africa's hopes of making a major impact in this year's French Open were dented even before the tournament started, with the non-appearance of world No 8 singles player, Kevin Anderson, because of the lingering elbow injury that has kept him out of the entire clay court segment of the ATP calendar.
But the greatest disappointment from a South African perspective was the first round elimination of two-time Grand Slam finalist Raven Klaasen and his New Zealand partner, Michael Venus, who were seeded seventh in the men's doubles and went into the Paris tournament with bright hopes after reaching the final of the ATP's Rome Masters event that preceded the French Open.
This left Harris as the only South African survivor in Paris, with the 22-year-old Capetonian coming away with a tidy amount of prize money to boost his bank balance and two creditable performances in the first Grand Slam tournament in which he has achieved direct qualification.
A tense, five-set 6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 marathon victory over seasoned Czech Lukas Rosol earned Harris a shot at 13th ranked Croat Borna Coric, and while the South African was never realistically in with a winning chance against one of the form players on the ATP circuit, he was not disgraced in going down 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (7/2).
And, in the circumstances, South African viewers on TV have been captivated by the magic and mastery of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem and their ilk with performances that have reached awesome heights at the traditional citadel of clay court tennis.