R1m purse for Soweto Open
Johannesburg - Professional tennis will return to the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Soweto in April where entrants will battle it out for a share of R1 million in prize money.
The men will take to the court in the Soweto Open from April 29 to May 4 while the women’s tournament will be played from May 6-11, Tennis South Africa (TSA) has announced.
Both tournaments have been sanctioned by the respective men’s and women’s international governing bodies - the ATP Tour, the ITF as well as the WTA Tour - and will carry international ranking points.
The tournament was launched in 2009 and continued for three years before financial restructuring by the City of Joburg, who was the chief sponsor, during the tough economic climate resulted in its decision not to sponsor the event in 2012.
TSA did not have sufficient time to find a new sponsor and give the necessary guarantees to the ATP and ITF tours so it was forced to shelve last year’s event. However, TSA approached the Department of Sport and Recreation and Minister Fikile Mbalula came out in full support of re-establishing the two tournaments.
TSA president, Wire Zondi, applauded the decision by government to assist in staging of the Soweto Open.
“I am very grateful to the Hon. Minister and his department for investing into the Soweto Open and holding hands with TSA in their vision for the growth and development of the game in Soweto” said Zondi.
“The Arthur Ashe Tennis Complex has been a resounding success, hosted many international events and been the breeding ground for a lot of talented tennis players. The recipe of successful tennis development has been proven through the TSA projects in Soweto at the Complex and the hosting of the Soweto Open can only compliment these efforts.”
In previous years the two tournaments were played concurrently but this time the decision was taken to separate the events. The reason for this is twofold. It gives TSA the opportunity to showcase tennis over two weeks and also falls in line with the government’s stance to highlight women’s sport.
This year is also the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the WTA Tour and that will be celebrated with a separate tournament. The later week will help the South African women’s Fed Cup team, who will be playing their Euro/Africa Group round robin tournament on clay in Ulcinj, Montenegro from April 17-20, get extra time to help them reacclimatise to hard courts at altitude.
“The importance of this tournament for future of South African tennis cannot be overstressed,” said TSA Chief Executive Ian Smith.
“Firstly it makes the sport accessible to members of our population who do get to see professional tennis live on a regular basis, and secondly it gives South African players the opportunity to accumulate valuable ranking points without having to spend thousands of rands travelling abroad.
“I would like to thank all the players - in particular the Department of Sports and Recreation, the ATP and ITF - who made it possible for the tournaments to return to Soweto.”
The men’s qualifying tournament will be played on April 27-28 while the qualifying tournament for the women will take place on May 4-5.
Under ATP, WTA and ITF the rules no player ranked in the top 50 in the world can enter a Challenger event although they can be offered a wildcard to play.
“While it would be great to have higher ranked player at these tournaments it is critical for tennis development that the wildcards go to local up-and-coming players who can use the event to learn the level of skill needed to succeed at a higher level, and earn much-needed ranking points,” said Smith.