De Jager: Tennis in SA is tough
John-Laffnie de Jager (File)
Johannesburg - South Africa's Davis Cup captain John-Laffnie de Jager says
the lack of local tennis tournaments poses a threat for development in the
"The system in South Africa is not good for our players, and if players
want to do well in tennis, they have to go play for an American college to
develop," said De Jager.
"The system in this country with university tennis is not good. They
don't have competitive tennis and yet you have to play against players who will
push you at your game if you want to improve."
He said local players often struggled with their careers when they turned
professional and it was too expensive to fund their careers from South Africa.
They were forced to sign up for scholarship opportunities abroad.
South Africa's top singles player Kevin Anderson, currently ranked 22nd in
the world, played three seasons of college tennis in the US at the University
of Illinois before pursuing his professional tennis career full-time.
Nik Scholtz, who represented South Africa over the weekend in the Davis Cup,
is also based in the US where he plays college tennis at the University of
"In an American coach, you have the right coach, you get sponsored and
you have a full technical team that takes care of you."
De Jager said more effort was needed in ensuring players were properly
developed in South Africa.
There should be more ITF Futures events on the local calendar, which would
give many unranked players opportunities to enter tournaments and earn crucial
points to climb the rankings, he said.
Futures events fall under the ITF Men's Circuit and represent the lowest
entry tournament for professionals who look to earn ATP ranking points.
They enable young professionals to progress onto the ATP Challenger Tour and
ultimately the full ATP World Tour.
While South Africa had hosted five Futures events during 2012 and 2013,
there were no further events planned for 2014.
"Futures is the best and cheapest way of developing tennis in our
country. With Futures, we are giving 15-16 players an opportunity to play each
week and that's great for development," said De Jager.
"We know sponsors just want big events, because that's where they get
all their publicity, but if you look at all the strong tennis nations in the
world, they have a massive amount of Futures.
"Our kids need to learn how to play in our country at altitude. It
gives them an advantage to get points and when they travel and play overseas
they get more points.
"Government also needs to help the cause and pump more money in (for
tournaments) because that develops skills."
South Africa defeated Monaco 3-2 in the Davis Cup Euro-Africa Group Two
first round tie over the weekend in Pretoria. They face Lithuania, at home, in
a second round tie in April.