Tennis SA players fly off to Wim­ble­don

CityPress - - Sport - SIL­VER SIBIYA sil­ver.sibiya@city­press.co.za

Four­teen-year-old Amuke­lani Mokone will fi­nally get to live her dream when she trav­els to the Wim­ble­don tennis tour­na­ment in the UK on Wed­nes­day as part of the Tennis SA (TSA) ju­nior team.

In April, Mokone made head­lines as her fam­ily couldn’t af­ford to pay for a trip to the UK with the ju­nior team. She had been selected af­ter an ex­cel­lent show­ing at a schools tour­na­ment in Pre­to­ria.

The com­mu­nity of Soweto, busi­ness­peo­ple and other high-pro­file in­di­vid­u­als stepped up and raised R70 000, which was pre­sented to her by Kaya FM at an of­fi­cial cer­e­mony. The ra­dio sta­tion was the first to make the pub­lic aware of her plight.

SA Schools Tennis chair David Jaquire said 22 players would rep­re­sent the coun­try dur­ing the UK tour, which in­cor­po­rates Wim­ble­don.

They will play against Som­er­set Col­lege on Satur­day and against Sut­ton Tennis Acad­emy on July 3, he said.

Jaquire said they would spend two full days at Wim­ble­don as each player had tick­ets to the tennis show­piece.

The players were writ­ing ex­ams last week, but he was hop­ing they would “hit a few balls” be­fore leav­ing. He added that he be­lieved the team was very strong and would do well.

Team coach Mar­ius Masen­camp said: “The team is scat­tered around the coun­try, but I have seen some of them play at in­ter­provin­cial level.”

The team is di­vided into three cat­e­gories: un­der 15, 17 and 19, with seven players in the first two cat­e­gories and eight in the Un­der-19 squad.

“In a per­fect world, it would be great to see them play in train­ing, but, un­for­tu­nately, it is costly, and it would be great if we had a spon­sor,” Masen­camp said.

The coach, who is based at St Stithi­ans Col­lege in Jo­han­nes­burg, said this was an im­por­tant tour­na­ment for the ju­niors.

“It is a great thing for these ju­nior players to go to these big tennis events. It will in­spire them to play there one day.”

Masen­camp also coaches Ber­tus Kruger, who re­cently played well at the French Open.

The coach said he found work­ing with chil­dren re­ward­ing: “To see them grow in con­fi­dence, and see their highs and lows on a tennis court is ful­fill­ing. It also helps them face other life chal­lenges.”

Mean­while, Wil­fred Lepule, the owner of Lepule Con­sul­tants, one of the com­pa­nies that had come to Mokone’s res­cue, said it was dis­ap­point­ing that her coach, Oupa Nthup­ing, would not be join­ing her on the trip.

“We were pre­pared to pay for him, but TSA flatly re­fused, say­ing Masen­camp was the only coach that should go with the team,” said Lepule. “They even threat­ened to dis­qual­ify her [Mokone] if Nthup­ing went to the UK.”

Jaquire de­clined the al­le­ga­tions, say­ing Nthup­ing should have ap­plied to go with her but was late do so by the time it came to his knowl­edge and Mokone was never threat­ened to be dis­qual­i­fied, but pro­ce­dure had to be fol­lowed.

Lepule said the spon­sors felt it would have been good for Nthup­ing to ac­com­pany Mokone, who trains at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Cen­tre in Soweto, which the coach heads.

Lepule has also called on other busi­ness­peo­ple in Soweto to help the strug­gling acad­emy.

PHOTO: NHLANHLA MDUNA / ARTHUR ASHE TENNIS CEN­TRE

SA­MAR­I­TAN Wil­fred Lepule (glasses) gives tennis gear to star Amuke­lani Mokone

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