Kevin Anderson walked outside to greet his South African supporters, some having already climbed to the top of their sport.
There were golfers Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, who have won major championships. And Johan Kriek, the last South African to win a grand slam tennis title who travelled for two days in hopes of seeing another.
Anderson will have to hope for a second chance to join their club.
His first appearance in a major final ended on Sunday with a 6-3 6-3 6-4 loss to Rafael Nadal, who handled the big serve and forehands that were the catalysts of the No. 28 seed's surprising run.
"I definitely felt I was playing good enough tennis to give myself a chance tonight," Anderson said. "It didn't work out that way, up against a very tough opponent."
Anderson managed just 10 aces - about half what he averaged in his previous six matches - and was in trouble in many service games starting early in the match. Once Nadal locked in on the towering Anderson's serve, it was clear Anderson would have to get into Nadal's, but he never even got a break point.
"It was definitely difficult," Anderson said, "and I think he had a pretty good read on my serve, and he was getting my serve games and he was holding quite comfortably."
But his success this summer, including another finals appearance in Washington, has the 31-year-old Anderson's career headed back in the right direction.
His ranking had tumbled to No. 80 in January, during a difficult start to his year that included a hip injury that forced him to miss the Australian Open.
Anderson was hurt again in June, forced to retire from his fourth-round match at the French Open against Marin Cilic with another leg injury that slowed his Wimbledon preparation.
After coming into New York at No.32, Anderson will be back to the top 15 after his performance in Flushing Meadows.
Kriek now lives in Palm Beach, Florida, and worked hard to get to New York in hopes of seeing another South African title.
He left the state on Saturday morning - along with thousands of people evacuating ahead of Hurricane Irma - and drove to Nashville to board a flight.
Kriek blew a two-set lead and to lost to Bjorn Borg in the 1980 US semi-finals, then captured the Australian Open the next year, so he believes Anderson can also bounce back.
"I think this is a learning experience for Kevin," Kriek said. "I think he's been out there for a long time, but tennis has changed dramatically. ... You can play well into your 30s."