The ball is now in Tennis SA’s court to help unearth talent
NOTHING like competitive tennis in the Boland region to enhance the careers of Africa’s finest talent.
A series of $ 10 000 Futures events is being played in Stellenbosch at the Maties Tennis Club, the third and final one of the entrylevel ATP tournaments ending tomorrow.
South Africa starred in the men’s draw with second-seeded Davis Cup star Nik Scholtz edging top seed Pascal Brunner of Austria 7-6(5) 7-5 in the first final to clinch his third victory of the year at this level.
The second final last Sunday saw Lloyd Harris of Cape Town make it through to the final, but the 18-year-old, who is ranked No 4 in the country, had to settle for second best in a 7-6(4) 6-1 loss to Austria’s Lucas Meidler. Valeria Bhunu triumphed in the women’s final. Zimbabwe’s Lesedi Jacobs won the first event.
The top players now have three weeks of action as they battle it out against overseas opposition. The foreign contingent dominate the numbers in both categories, and the fact that they play a good few more events back home gives them an added advantage.
This is where the money part kicks in. With the majority of Futures taking place in and around Europe – Turkey, for example, stages usually one every week of the year – SA’s hopefuls, who are shy of financial aid, are on the back foot from the get-go.
Some, like Kevin Anderson, beat the odds. His recent move up the world rankings to a career-high 10th place (currently 12th) wouldn’t have gone unnoticed.
The SA-born player is now based in the US and his decision to move overseas has been vindicated as his game has improved immensely.
Tennis SA should now address the fact that only three local men other than Anderson feature in the top 500 world rankings. They are Tucker Vorster (327), Scholtz (457) and Harris (500).
It’s worse in the women’s ranks. Chanel Simmonds leads the pack ranked 314, followed by Ilze Hattingh (694) and Madrie le Roux (793).
Closer working relations with provinces should be the order of the day to start unearthing talent. Then the nurturing side of things every step of the way.
More age- group tournaments are a must. Those who then feature prominently should receive full backing from the controlling body in order to realise their full potential. It’s going to cost plenty, but that’s the way it is.
Did TSA not splash out millions in appearance fees for big-name players to compete in the SA and Soweto opens, two tournaments that have fallen away due to one reason or another. That money could have been used to stage several Futures.
Too many youngsters are falling by the wayside for reasons beyond their control, and it’s a very sad situation. Young players from disadvantaged communities are worst off, for obvious reasons.
Fortunately here in Cape Town, there are people who care about the plight of these youngsters.
A tennis academy in Bantry Bay, run by former professional player Anthony Harris, offers hope. Harris and Anthula Markovitz, the founder of Match (Make a Champion), have launched a project in Mitchell’s Plain to unearth talent.
Just taking the game to the masses has proved to be a hit; already there are 195 kids benefitting, some showing huge potential like Leo Matthysen and Mikaeel Woodman.
They have shown great improvement since joining the academy.
What a change in fortunes for them and who knows, they maybe champions in waiting.