Cape Town - As a junior he was ranked 12th
in the world and last weekend while playing the key role in helping South
Africa avoid ignominious relegation to the Euro-Africa Group Three segment of
the Davis Cup, 29-year-old Fritz Wolmarans belatedly demonstrated the potential
that has prompted team captain Earl Grainger to label him the country's
"greatest tennis under-achiever."
"Although the 5-0 victory over Ireland
in the relegation decider at the Irene Country Club might seem plain
sailing," says Grainger, "it could have been a lot different had
Fritz, now ranked 530th in the world, not upset Ireland number one and the
150th world-ranked James McGee in a tense opening singles match.
"It was that game that eased the pressure
and set the tone for the entire tie," added the South African team
captain, "and showed why many in the know had believed Fritz possessed the
talent to forge a career to rank alongside some of the country's top players.
"It's mind-boggling to see him ranked
only 540th in the world right now. At 6ft 6in, his booming serve is truly in
world-class and there is no real weakness in his make-up.
"He showed what he is capable of doing
in the previous Davis Cup tie against Turkey when he was shaded 8-6 by Turkey's
77th ranked Marsel Ilhan in the fifth
set of a high-class encounter."
According to Grainger, the Bloemfontein-born
Wolmarans, who currently resides in the United States, has been blighted by
injuries throughout his career, but he has also suffered because he has been
"out on the road" in the gruelling international circuit without an
adequate back-up team and financial support.
"It's excruciatingly difficult to make
the big breakthrough into the top bracket without the right coaching
staff," said the South African Davis Cup captain, "and this has been
the drawback for many of our most promising players."
But Grainger, himself a former ATP circuit
player, believes that on the evidence of what he has seen of Wolmarans' play in
the Davis Cup ties against Ireland and Turkey, there is still time for the big
server to scale the top heights.
"Fritz climbed to 198th in the world a
couple of years back," added Grainger, "but he's got the ability to
move into the top 100 and better if he steers clear of injuries and has the
right kind of guidance and
As a junior, Wolmarans had the beating of
players like former United States Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro, who went
on to climb to a world number three ranking, and Italy's Fabio Fognini, who has
reached a world number 12 ranking.
Wolmarans lists surfing as one of his main
hobbies right now and, who knows, South African tennis's "greatest
under-achiever" could still fulfil Grainger's assessment and paddle his
way to prominence on the ATP circuit.