Melbourne - Despite the early exits of Kevin Anderson and Raven Klaasen at the Australian Open last week, the South African flag is still flying high at the first Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne.
In the Junior Boys' singles, Philip Henning of Bloemfontein reached round 3 of the junior Grand Slam on Tuesday.
Henning, a Grey College learner, upset ninth seed Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil 6-4, 6-4 in the second round. In the opening round, Henning beat George Loffhagen of Great Britain in two tight sets 7-6 (7/5), 7-5.
It’s been a fabulous tour Down Under for the 17-year-old Free Stater. Henning qualified for the pre-Australian Open warm-up junior tournament, Traralgon Junior International, where he went on to beat Nicolas Mejia of Colombia, ranked nine in the junior world rankings, 6-0, 6-2 in the main draw.
Henning did not make the final cut of the Australian Open Junior main draw so was forced to play in the qualifying rounds. He won two gruelling rounds of qualifying and was one of eight players to qualify for the main draw proper in Melbourne.
“I can’t believe that I am into the third round of the Aussie Open Junior,” said an elated Henning following his victory. “It has always been a dream to play in a Grand Slam and that dream is now a reality. I hope to continue my good form for the rest of the week.”
Allan Karam, the Tennis South Africa (TSA) national coach travelling with Henning, said that the youngster played aggressive from the baseline. “Phillip is really playing well and his aggressiveness is working well on the hard courts here in Melbourne. Today his returning game was on point and a key to his win as his opponent had a big serve. The few opportunities thrown at Philip by Seyboth Wild, Philip capitalised on and this gave him the advantage throughout the match. Philip also served well, never lost serve the entire match and used his all-round athletic ability to cover the court.”
In the third round on Wednesday, Henning will play American, Sebastian Korda. The two have never played each other before.
Henning is also still in the boys’ doubles with partner Andrew Paulson of the Czech Republic. The two upset top seeds, Sebastian Baez (Argentina) and Wild 2-6, 7-6 (7/5), 14-12 to move into the quarter-finals.
The only other South African participating in the Australian Open Juniors is Myah Petchey of Cape Town, who was given a lucky loser spot into the main draw but lost in round one to American, Nicole Mossmer.
Watching Henning from the sidelines were two former South African greats, Wayne Ferreira and Jeff Coetzee who both were impressed by Henning.
Coetzee, who was recently announced by TSA as one of their high-performance coaches said that Henning was a real talent and his mental game was his real strength.
“Philip is one of the best junior players South Africa has produced in a while. He has dominated back home and now is doing well on the international stage having beaten the world’s number 8, 9 and 24 ranked juniors. The exciting thing is that there is so much Philip can still improve on. He can still be more aggressive on the short ball, improve his net game and movement which will make him a more complete player and enable him to compete with the very best in the world,” said Coetzee.