Johannesburg – Long-time Davis Cup tennis stalwart Rik De Voest had his hopes dashed in the opening qualifying round of the Australian Open in Melbourne on Friday.
De Voest went down 6-3, 5-7 and 10-8 to Austrian Dominic Thiem in a topsy-turvy two hours, 20 minutes' battle that fluctuated at regular intervals, with the two evenly-matched players regularly gaining and losing the initiative in turn.
Ultimately, it was an early conclusion for South Africa's number two, who had hoped for a meaningful performance in the grand slam tournament prior to the Davis Cup.
De Voest is expected to spearhead the South African team's challenge in the Euro-Africa Group Two tie against Monaco at the Irene Country Club at the end of the month.
Also failing to reach the main singles segment in the Australian Open was South African number two women's player Chanel Simmonds who went one step further than De Voest, losing in the second qualifying round.
The 21-year-old Simmonds, one of South Africa's brightest tennis prospects, beat Italy's Maria Camerin 7-5, 6-0 in the first qualifying round, but then met her match in a 6-2, 6-0 defeat against Irina Falconi.
South Africans had better luck in the draws for the main singles segments of the Australian Open on Friday.
Top South African player and 19th seed Kevin Anderson, seeking to end a slump in form in which he has failed to progress beyond the second round in his last 10 tournaments, avoided an early match-up with one of the game's top players.
However, former grand slam champion and Novak Djokovic's recently-appointed coach, Boris Becker, said at the draw that there were no easy games at this level.
Anderson, who is currently ranked 20th in the world, comes up against the Czech Republic's 82nd-ranked Jiri Vesely in the first round, and could meet 51st-ranked Portuguese player Joao Sousa if he gets through to the second round.
A projected third-round opponent for Anderson is 12th-seeded Tommy Haas.
Should the South African progress to the fourth round, he could meet his nemesis, the seventh-seeded Tomas Berdych.
Top South African woman's player Chani Scheepers has also avoided facing one of the leading players in the first round.
Her own world ranking has slipped to 80th from 40th in the past 12 months.
Scheepers faces the 47th-ranked Austrian Yvonne Meusburger in the first round, with a likely match-up against 20-year-old US prospect Jamie Hampton if she makes it to the second round. – Sapa