McCarthy’s AAT adds some­thing dif­fer­ent to the cir­cuit

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

WELL done to lo­cal ten­nis academy owner Nor­man McCarthy for launch­ing a prize money tour­na­ment for the prov­ince’s top play­ers.

The in­au­gu­ral All African Ten­nis ( AAT) 250 tour­na­ment played at Pinelands Ten­nis Club last week with two 15-year-olds from an open field con­test­ing the fi­nal.

Evers­dal’s Pierre Malan pock­eted R1 000 after beat­ing Ron­de­bosch’s Thando Longwe-Smit 6-1 4-6 6-3, the match com­pleted un­der flood­lights after nearly two hours of play.

“That’s the first real money I’ve won for my­self,” said Malan. “It was a tough match that could have gone ei­ther way.

“I started fast and then Thando came back with a vengeance to force a de­cid­ing set which I man­aged to win thanks to bet­ter serv­ing, pa­tience and the be­lief that I could pull it off.

“I got a lot of first serves and was far more pa­tient dur­ing the ral­lies and that got me over the line.”

Longwe-Smit was any­thing but a pushover. After be­ing out­played in the open­ing set, he be­gan to play some smart ten­nis with some bril­liant pass­ing shots un­der pres­sure.

He gen­er­ated se­ri­ous power with his fore­hand and used the lob in­tel­li­gently into a slight breeze to win points, much to the frus­tra­tion of his op­po­nent.

That’s not to say the match was played in a bad spirit; it was hard­fought with nei­ther player will­ing to give an inch and no love lost when it came to mak­ing line calls.

“I had enough chances to win it,” said Longwe-Smit. “The first set was a dis­as­ter, the next I came into my own and then I just blew it when it mat­tered most.

“I was hit­ting the ball well of both flanks but just couldn’t con­vert at key mo­ments. I had a good tour­na­ment and pock­eted R500, which is not too shabby in my book.”

Longwe-Smit, like Malan, needs to per­fect the art of fol­low­ing up a good shot with an­other. Los­ing ral­lies when dom­i­nat­ing doesn’t cut it.

That said, the two teenagers are among the best ju­niors in the coun­try and are in the run­ning to play Ju­nior Davis Cup for South Africa next year if they can hold their rank­ings.

As for the AAT tour­na­ment, it’s a much-needed one when one fac­tors in how few there are for the coun­try’s lead­ing ju­niors.

McCarthy should be ap­plauded for his ini­tia­tive. He’s just hop­ing that spon­sors will come on board and sup­port his ini­tia­tive.

“In the fi­nal we had two of SA’s most ex­cit­ing young tal­ents on the boys ten­nis front. Pierre and Thando ad­vanced to the fi­nals after some great wins in the week in­clud­ing op­po­nents with world Un­der-18 rank­ings as high as 460,” he said.

“Some qual­ity ten­nis was played by them and I’m sure they have a fu­ture in the game. I back both of them to make a name for them­selves when they hit the se­nior ranks.

“I en­joy coach­ing them be­cause they al­ways give 100 per­cent. They need to work on dif­fer­ent ar­eas of their game and learn to be­come more clin­i­cal when in the as­cen­dancy. And they also need to play more com­pet­i­tive events.

“Sadly, there’s not much out there. That’s the main rea­son I started what I did. If we can get big busi­ness in­volved then we will look at stag­ing 500 and 1000 tour­na­ments, and even a masters se­ries. The play­ers would love that.

“Let’s re­mem­ber the aim of the AAT is to bring about some­thing that is miss­ing in the com­pe­ti­tion struc­tures of ten­nis in South Africa. We need more of these events to ex­pose young play­ers to tough ten­nis and bridge the gap be­tween ju­nior ten­nis and the pro­fes­sional cir­cuit.”

Ten­nis SA have ar­ranged a fur­ther three Fu­tures (en­try-level tour­na­ments for up-and-com­ing pro­fes­sion­als) to be played in Stel­len­bosch later in the year.

While it’s good news for the lo­cals, six of these events are a far cry from the num­ber planned for the year by the sport’s con­trol­ling body.

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