Though the sport still has some way to go to regain its previous lofty heights, South African tennis continued to raise its profile this year, thanks largely to the performances of one player.
With Kevin Anderson struggling to find his best form, after reaching two Grand Slam finals in recent years and increasing public interest back home, Lloyd Harris grabbed the baton from the former world No 5 and ran with it.
Having overtaken Anderson as the country’s top-ranked singles player, Harris now shoulders a weight of expectation, but his results this year suggest he is up to the task.
After reaching the final of the Dubai Championships – an ATP 500 series tournament – and progressing to the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time at the Australian Open, he went on to achieve a massive breakthrough by reaching the quarter-finals at the US Open.
Closing the season at No 31 in the world rankings, 24-year-old Harris has cemented himself as a real top-flight prospect at global level.
Anderson, meanwhile, continued his attempt to make a comeback from persistent injuries, and the 35-year-old player achieved some success by winning the Hall of Fame Open in Newport and reaching the third round of the Masters tournament at Indian Wells.
He did not progress beyond the second round of a Grand Slam, however, ending the year at No 80 in the world rankings.
Elsewhere, the nation’s elite women were still missing from the WTA circuit and the SA team remained stranded in Euro-Africa Group III in the Billie Jean King Cup (previously the Fed Cup) after losing to Ireland in a playoff tie in Lithuania.
Led by Harris and veteran doubles specialist Raven Klaasen, however, the SA team managed to keep their hopes alive in the men’s Davis Cup competition.
After beating Venezuela 4-0 at a neutral venue in New York in September, the national squad qualified for the Group I promotion playoffs, to be held in March next year.