McCarthy’s AAT adds something different to the circuit
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.