Wimbledon: No SA success in singles

2015-06-29 08:34
Wimbledon (File)

Cape Town - It is one of the International Tennis Federation's prized and much-sought four Grand Slam events with equal world ranking points and a similar amount  in millions and millions of prize money.

But to English followers of the event that was launched on Wimbledon's hallowed grass-courts in 1877 it remains simply The Championships.

And few anywhere would dispute that one of world's greatest sporting spectacles is indeed the blue riband among tennis tournaments, while ranking above all others in popularity, prestige and tradition by a worldwide following and the players seeking acclaim and glory - not to mention the R38m or so that goes to the winners of the men's and women's singles titles.

But for South Africa the men's and women's singles titles remain elusive commodities after 128 versions of The Championships that started 138 years ago, with Brian Norton (1921) and Kevin Curren (1985) in men's singles and Sandra Reynolds (1960) in the women's version the closest anyone from this country has come to be a Wimbledon champion after losing in the finals.

Curren, it will be recalled, beat three Wimbledon champions in Stefan Edberg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors in straight sets before coming up against a 17 year-old upstart named Boris Becker and being upset in the final.

Norton led Bill Tilden by two sets to love in the 1921 final before going down 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-0, 7-5.

A singles semi-finalist at Wimbledon in 1951 and arguably South Africa's No 1, all-time tennis player, Eric Sturgess played in three Grand Slam singles finals in all and 15 singles and doubles Grand Slam finals of which six produced titles.

Sturgess' tennis career was interrupted by the loss of possibly his best years by World War 2 in which he served as an RAF pilot before being shot down over Italy and taken to a concentration camp in East Germany - barring which he might well have become South Africa's first singles champion at Wimbledon.

Cliff Drysdale reached two Wimbledon singles semi-finals in 1965 and 1966 and like Sturgess rose to  a No 4 world ranking - the best yet achieved by  a South African.

Doubles has proved a more successful proposition for South Africans at Wimbledon, with Frew McMillan and the now-disgraced Bob Hewitt - recently found guilty of rape and sexual abuse of minors - winning three men's doubles titles.

Sturgess won three Wimbledon mixed doubles titles, first with fellow-South African Sheila Summers and then with United States singles champion Louise Brough and also reached two men's doubles finals.

And 10 years ago, Wesley Moodie and Australian partner Stephen Huss brought off a major Wimbledon surprise as an unranked pairing by winning the men's doubles title.

South African men's singles quarter-finalists at Wimbledon also include Abe Segal, Johan Kriek and Wayne Ferreira.

And it is this feat, if not more, 14th-seeded Kevin Anderson, a previous last 16 performer at Wimbledon, will be trying to emulate in the tournament that gets underway on Monday.

At the same time, Raven Klaasen and American partner Rajeev Ram, also the 14th seeds, will be seeking something similar in the men's doubles.

Read more on:    atp tour  |  wta tour  |  wimbledon  |  tennis

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