Melbourne - Top South African prospect Chanel Simmonds has defied the odds to reach the final qualifying round of the Australian Open - and South African number one Kevin Anderson gained a measure of revenge over France's Julien Benneteau prior to next week's grand slam event in Melbourne.
Anderson on Friday reached the final of the Sydney International Open in an absorbing 2hr 55min marathon by beating Benneteau 3-6 6-4 7-6 (8) for what will be his fourth ATP event final and present him with the opportunity of gaining his third ATP title.
It was Benneteau who shaded Anderson for the 32nd seeded position in the Australian Open following the late withdrawal of a number seeds, with the crucial outcome that the South African star is now faced with a far more difficult draw in the Melbourne event than if he had squeezed into the seedings.
Although Anderson will be favoured to win his first round match in the Australian Open against Italy's Paolo Lorenzi via his blistering serve and dramatically improved form in 2013, his continued path afterwards is likely to be paved with daunting obstacles.
Anderson will probnably face the relentless Argentinian baseline exponent and number 11 seed, Juan Monaco, if he makes the second round. A third-round match-up could be against Spain's Fernando Verdasco, who is ranked 12 places above the South African in the world rankings, with matters becoming infinitely more difficult afterwards.
A fourth round match-up could pair Anderson with the fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych and should he go into the quarter-finals he will probably meet the defending champion and number one seed Novak Djokovic.
Meanwhile, this week's qualifying rounds in the Australian Open have produced a mixed bag of results for the South Africans, with Simmonds exceeding expectations by beating two opponents who are ranked more than 50 positions better than her in the world rankings.
The 20 year-old Simmonds on Friday beat 12th-seeded qualifier and 127th-ranked world player Maria Sanchez of the United States 6-4 6-4.
Earlier, Simmonds accounted for Japan's Junri Namigata 7-6 3-6 6-4 in a vacillating battle that lasted almost three hours, with only a game against Portugal's Michelle De Brito now standing in the way of a place in the Australian Open main draw and the assurance of a minimum amount of R70 000 in prize money.
It was, however, all gloom and doom for South African Davis Cup players Rik De Voest and Izak van der Merwe in the Australian Open qualifiers, with both going out in the first round despite facing little-known opponents.
De Voest put up a sturdy battle and was within a whisker of winning in straight sets against Radu Albot before losing 4-6 7-6
6-3, while Van der Merwe went out in straight sets losing 6-3 6-4 to Damir Dzumhur. - Sapa