Australian Open

SA’s no-show in Australian Open singles

2017-01-16 07:50
Australian Open (File)

Cape Town - It used to be a case of approaching with a good deal of high expectation and pent-up curiosity which players the South African contingent at the Australian Open had drawn as opponents.

No need to be worked up in such a manner this time, with the draw, which was made and released on Friday, not containing a single South African in either the men's or women 128-player singles make-up.

And further disturbing about this absence of South African participation is the ironic recollection that the Australian Open is the only Grand Slam singles event in which a South African has triumphed - namely the two titles annexed by big-hitting Johan Kriek during the early 1980s.

The current sorry situation has emerged in its finality as a result of Kevin Anderson's last-minute withdrawal through injury from the men's singles.

But with the top South African player having slipped from 12th place in the world rankings to a present 80th after a nightmarish, injury-plagued 2016 and not realistically a strong contender to repeat some impressive results in previous Australian Opens, perhaps more disappointing is the absence of top South African 19-year-old prospect and number two, Lloyd Harris, from making his Grand Slam debut - albeit in the arduous qualifying rounds.

Tennis South Africa sources claim the decision was made totally by Harris and his handlers, but it is questionable whether TSA are affording the top South African prospect sufficient support - in both financial and development issues.

Harris has improved his world ranking to 284th in the world largely through a string of successes in ITF Futures tournaments.

But further progress cannot continue to any significant degree by playing in these third-tier events - and, if not yet attempting to qualify for Grand Slam main draws, the time has surely come for Harris to test his mettle in ATP Challenger tournaments and if successful to move into the  testing ATP World Group arena.

And as confirmation of this is the fact that a number of players of similar age to Harris are already occupying positions among the world's top 50-ranked players - headed notably by the 13th-ranked Australian Nick Kyrgios and 19-year-old German prodigy Alexander Zverev, with a 24th world ranking.
Meanwhile, South Africa's insular hopes in Melbourne in the coming two weeks will rest fair and square on the shoulders of world 15th ranked Raven Klaasen and his American partner, Rajeev Ram, in the men's doubles.

Happily too the mega-tournament with over $50-million prize money oozes intriguing prospects and exceptional talent to whet the appetite of any tennis cognoscente from its very outset.

As confirmation look no further than the first-round match-ups of multi-Australian Open champions Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams against dangerous opponents Fernando Verdasco and Belinda  Bencic respectively.

And looking further ahead there is the prospect of a headlong collision between 17-times Grand Slam champion Roger Federer and 10th-seeded Tomas Berdych as early as the third round.

Read more on:    atp tour  |  australian open  |  sy lerman  |  tennis
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