Johannesburg – Former world number one Lleyton Hewitt will be the first obstacle for South Africa's Kevin Anderson in the first Masters tennis tournament of the year at Indian Welles.

The 17th-seeded Anderson will be defending his recently-acquired career-best world ranking of 17 at the millionaire's desert resort on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

But a victory against Hewitt will, in all likelihood, result in a match-up against Russian 14th seed Mikhail Youzhny, with in-form Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka likely to be the next in line for the big-serving South African if he makes it through to the last 16 round.

In Anderson's only previous clash against Hewitt in the Stockholm Open last year, the South African lost in straight sets against the gritty, evergreen Australian.

Anderson, with former South African Davis Cup player, Neville Godwin as his new coach, has come back strongly to reach the final of both the Mexican Open and Delray Beach tournaments in the last couple of weeks, before losing to Eastern Europeans Marin Cilic and Grigor Durmitov.

Anderson has won two 250-rated tournaments in his professional career since 2008 and lost in six other ATP finals, but he has yet to progress beyond the fourth round in a grand slam event or make a major impact in a Masters tournament.

At the age of 27, Anderson is now looking at 2014 as a breakthrough year and hoping to cement a place among the world's top 15 players, if not a prestigious position in the top 10.

It has started promisingly under Godwin, but Indian Welles promises to be a revealing test with all the world's leading players apart from the injured David Ferrer in the field. – Sapa