Bright future for SA tennis
SA No 1 Kevin Anderson (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg – South African tennis has a bright future, provided the development of young talent is prioritised.
That is the view of Davis Cup captain John-Laffnie de Jager.
“It’s understandable that the South African Tennis Association’s (Sata) priority the past few years was to bring an ATP tournament back to our shores, but now that that has been achieved we have to look at the development of young talent,” said De Jager.
“Sata don’t currently have a person in charge of player development. We definitely need someone who can co-ordinate coaching and identify young talent.”
The South African Open at Montecasino had an attendance figure of 24 000 and could have inspired some future stars.
South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, Rik de Voest, Izak van der Merwe and Raven Klaasen enjoyed a lot of support in the singles, while De Voest, Wesley Moodie and Jeff Coetzee performed well in the doubles.
With two Davis Cup meetings and Challenge tournaments in Soweto and East London coming up, Sata have great opportunities to promote the game. De Jager says it should be grabbed with both hands.
“It was great to see that the emphasis in media reports during the initial stages of the SA Open was on local players and how the crowd supported them. It was good for the players to get exposure because they can only fare better when they get support from home,” said De Jager.
“The reality, however, is that there were no support structures in their junior years. They all have heaps of talent, but without the right coaching, talent can only take you so far. The challenge is to get the coaching in our country up to scratch and prevent another generation of players from not playing to their potential.”
South African currently have two boys and three girls in the top 100 juniors in the world. Some others are also climbing the ladder.
De Jager is involved in the establishment of a tennis school at the Players Academy in Pretoria. He hopes it can become a national academy in time.
“We won’t just be concentrating on the technical aspects, but also on the mental side. Players should be motivated to work hard and train intensively. When you have one or two players that work hard and give their all, the rest will notice and do the same,” he said.
De Jager said the withdrawal of South Africa’s No 1 player, Anderson, from the Davis Cup clash against Macedonia in March, had complicated his task.
“When Kevin plays, he is No 1 and Rik No 2. Rik will now be No 1, but with Izak, Fritz and Raven in the picture, it will be difficult to pick a second singles player,” he said.