BENJAMIN Lock's growing reputation as one of Africa's rising tennis stars has been further enhanced after becoming Zimbabwe's top-ranked tennis player following his victory in the doubles competition at the Egypt Men's Futures Tournament in Sharm el-Sheikh last week.
Lock clinched his first title of the year and fourth overall after combining with Casey Alcantara from the Philippines to secure a hard-fought 6-3 6-7 [10-7] victory over the duo of Taipei's Ti Chen and Fajing Sun, both from China.
The win lifted Lock to a career high position 466 on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) world rankings released on Monday, overtaking compatriot Takanyi Garanganga in the process.
Garanganga, who has endured a disappointing start to the season after failing to progress beyond the first round in seven consecutive tournaments since January, continued his freefall on the same rankings to position 495 -- a far cry from his career high ranking of 288 that he reached in 2014.
In contrast, Lock -- who is competing in his first calendar year on the professional circuit -- has been in very good form, reaching the final on three occasions since January prior to last weekend's victory.
The 24-year-old rising tennis star, who was ranked outside the top 500 at the start of the year, recently announced his plans to qualify for next year's Australian Open which would require him to significantly improve his ranking by December this year.
"When I turned pro in July 2016, my goal was to make the Australian Open 2018 and that remains my number one focus.
My target this year is to improve my ranking so that I move from ITF Pro Circuit to the ATP World Tour," Lock said in an interview with Standardsport.
The retired Black siblings -- Byron, Wayne and Cara -- as well as former double specialist Kevin Ullyett remain the only Zimbabweans to have hoisted the flag high at the Grand Slam tournaments in recent years.
Lock will be eager to continue his good form in Egypt, where he is scheduled to take part in two more tournaments before heading to the US in April where he will spend another three weeks competing on the ITF Pro Circuit.
Lock, who is the son of current Tennis Zimbabwe president Martin Lock and brother to US-based tennis player Courtney, will play an integral part in Zimbabwe's bid to regain promotion back to the Davis Cup Europe/Africa Group II in 2018, following a 3-2 loss away to Georgia in July last year.
The rising star will be part of the Africa Zone Group III promotion tournament that will feature 15 nations from July 17-22 in Egypt.