Cape Town - It looked as though 2020 was poised to be a year of happy tidings for top South African tennis players Kevin Anderson and Lloyd Harris after promising, if not shattering performances in the inaugural ATP Cup and the ATP Tour's Adelaide Open that followed in January.
READ | Federer has high hopes for SA's Harris
Instead, in a transformation with all the characteristics of an acrobat's miscued somersault, the 91st world-ranked Harris and 121st-ranked Anderson have slumped to ground in quite alarming fashion in the past week.
The change in fortunes took root initially in the Australian Open extravaganza when two-time Grand Slam finalist Anderson, seemingly making an encouraging return to competition after a year blighted by injuries, was beaten in the second round in Melbourne by promising 22-year-old American, Taylor Fritz, after winning the first two sets and seemingly cruising to victory with a commanding lead in the third set, while Adelaide finalist Harris was systematically taken apart by relentless 14th-seeded Argentinian Diego Schwartzmann in his first game in the tournament.
This, however, proved no more than the likes of clouds looming before the storm, with Anderson, the 2018 title holder, going down 7-6 (8/6), 6-4 in the first round of the New York Open against little-known 131st-ranked Taiwan player Jason Jung, while Harris didn't make it through to the first round of the Marseille Open, losing 6-3, 6-4 to French wildcard Elliot Benchetrit - ranked a modest 202nd in the world - in the qualifiers.
Ironically, while South Africa provided an encouraging display in the ATP Cup at the start of the year, despite failing to reach the quarter-final stage of the 24-nation tournament, Anderson and Harris' current rankings wouldn't allow for qualification for the event next year.
So what does 2020 now hold for 33-year-old veteran Anderson and up-and-coming 22-year-old Harris?
Was the past week no more than a passing - and fleeting - nightmare or is it going to be a tough uphill battle this year?
Either way, the going is clearly not easy on the fiercely competitive ATP Tour right now - not even against players ranked 131st and 202nd in the world, it would seem!