Williams visit 'a lesson'
Johannesburg - The successful visit of the Williams sisters, with an enthusiastic, sell-out crowd attending Serena's 6-3, 6-4 exhibition win over Venus at the Ellis Park Indoor Arena on Sunday, showed tennis is well and alive in the country and proved a revealing lesson for Tennis South Africa (TSA).GALLERY: Williams sisters visit SA
This was the view expressed on Monday by former South African tennis stars Kevin Curren and Abe Segal, who debunked the theory that the game was in the doldrums in South Africa.
The brief, but barnstorming visit of the iconic Williams sisters, which included a coaching clinic in Soweto, was the brainchild of the private Octagen organisation and not the initiative of TSA.
"It proved what I've always felt. You've got to think big and give the fans what they want," Segal said on Monday.
"Any sport thrives on the success and interest it generates at top level. It happened in South Africa in the past. Why not now?
"Development at grass roots is obviously an urgent essential and should not be compromised, but its level of success is severely handicapped if there are no major events or world-class players as role models."
Segal pointed to the restoration of a world-class, ATP and WTA-sanctioned South African Open and regaining a place in the elite World Group of the Davis Cup as priorities for TSA.
"I know there are huge financial constraints, but where there is a will there is a way," he said.
"Countries with far less resources than South Africa are doing better."
Curren said he sympathised with TSA on the issue of raising major sponsorships, but he believed it was "inexcusable" that home-court advantage in the vital World Group playoff against Canada this year had been sacrificed over the issue of raising R1,3-million to stage the tie.
He was also highly critical of top South African player Kevin Anderson's reluctance to make himself available for crucial Davis Cup matches, "especially when he is the stand-out player in the country and his presence is indispensible".
Meanwhile, Venus said the siblings had taken the African exhibition matches, which got underway in Lagos on Thursday, as seriously as any official encounter.
"To be true to ourselves we have to go out on the court and at all times do our best, no matter what the occasion," Venus said.
"But what can you do when you come up against an opponent like Serena, who is on fire?"