SA tennis legends rue sad day
Johannesburg - Former South African Davis Cup stalwarts and Wimbledon doubles semi-finalists Abe Segal and Gordon Forbes have described the decision of Tennis SA (TSA) to surrender the right to stage the Davis Cup World Group playoff against Canada as a sad day for SA sport.
"I don't think too many of the 185 member nations of the International Tennis Federation, let alone a country with a proven history in the sport like South Africa, would have made a decision like this," Segal said on Tuesday.
"Imagine Arsenal being drawn at home in a soccer cup tie against Manchester United and then requesting the match be staged at Old Trafford."
Forbes, who filled the post of president of the SA Tennis Association at one stage, said he sympathised with the TSA administration "because I had personal experience of how difficult it has become to secure sponsorship for tennis in the country, and I'm sure they did their best."
TSA waived the right to host the world-class Milos Raonic and his Canadian team-mates, citing the inability to secure the required sponsorship of approximately R1.5 million.
"We tried everyone - the government, the private sector, the TV companies and affluent individuals who we hoped would be sympathetic," said TSA president Bongani Zonde.
"But no money was forthcoming."
Segal said it was laughable that a country like South Africa could not raise the relatively modest amount to stage an event with the long-term potential benefits which could emerge from staging a World Group playoff.
"South Africa was a force in world tennis in the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s and the sport was thriving in the country," Segal said.
"We attracted the best players in the world to the country, instead of turning them away."
Ian Smith, the TSA chief executive, said it was not a case of the organisation being bankrupt.
"But our funds are strictly limited and we had to weigh up whether it was worth spending more money on the Davis Cup at the expense of development projects and such-like," Smith said.