'Tennis Citizen’ De Jager still has SA as priority

2016-04-26 13:47
John-Laffnie de Jager (File)

Cape Town - He describes himself now as a "world tennis citizen" in view of his varied international commitments, former Davis Cup captain John-Laffnie de Jager is back in South Africa with the priority of helping the game locally to achieve its former lofty status.

De Jager is the permanent travelling coach of promising 22-year-old Ajla Tomljanovic, the Croatian-born, Australian-based 106th world-ranked women’s player; coach of the Springfield Lasers in the popular USA World Team Tennis event and coach in the year-end International Professional League of the Dubai Royals - who last year included Roger Federer, Marin Cilic, Tomas Berdych and Ana Ivanovic in its ranks.

But it is his ongoing JL Academy and Matchpoint Foundation, which operates from facilities at the Midstream College in Pretoria, that remains dear to his heart as he attempts to unearth world-class talent to follow in the likes of Cliff Drysdale, Johan Kriek, Kevin Curren, Wayne Ferreira, Amanda Coetzer and Kevin Anderson in most recent times.

"It is frustrating and quite sad that the well of talent that produced world-class players continually going back as far as the 1930s has seemingly dried up in the last decade," says De Jager.

However, the former Davis Cup captain is convinced that the potential talent to reach a top level exists in abundance in South Africa and will blossom with the right level of coaching and  international exposure.

"Without this exposure," he says,” the development of South African youngsters tends to come up against a brick wall at the most important stage of their development.

"In my time as a player," he added, "the South African Tennis Association ran what was known as a Super Squad made up of 10 of the most promising players in the country, with seven of the 10 reaching a world ranking in the top 100 and higher.

"The players were exposed to international conditions and standards round the world and that I believe is what is lacking in our make-up right now."

He says his activities at the Midstream College are a means of helping fill the void, but it remains a difficult undertaking at private level, although he is heartened by the fact that promising players from his academy were successful in the under-10, under-12 and under-14 events at the recent South African Junior championships. 

De Jager says the Matchpoint Foundation, which is designed to assist promising young players, has received encouraging support from top South African players and personalities like Wayne and Ellis Ferreira, South African-born Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley, Raven Klaasen, Amanda Coetzer, Ilana Kloss and Christo van Rensburg.

De Jager will remain in South Africa during May before resuming his activities as a "world tennis citizen" when  the now-injured Tomljanovic returns to the WTA circuit in June.

At the same time, six permanent coaches will continue with the search for elusive top level talent at the JL Academy.

Read more on:    atp tour  |  wta tour  |  john-laffnie de jager  |  tennis

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