Johannesburg - Rising young South African star Bertus Kruger showed the world that tennis in this country has a bright future when he qualified for the main draw of the Junior French Open a few days ago.
His Roland Garros singles campaign came to a sad end when he was beaten 7-6, 6-4 by 10th-seed Oliver Crawford from the US last Sunday.
Kruger, 18, aid that he felt he had let himself down, but was greatly encouraged by his family, who were pleased with his achievement.
“It felt like I let myself and my parents down, but they were still so proud of me,” said Kruger.
He told City Press that his 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 win against Bulgarian Leonid Sheyngezikht to reach the main draw was an emotional moment.
“I was completely shocked...I had no words to describe it. My coach [Ross Nemeth] and I were so happy.
“My parents were in tears and could not even utter a word. It’s a moment I’ll never forget".
Before the St Stithians College pupil reached the qualifying round, he beat Japanese Toru Horie, a player currently ranked in the top 50 in the International Tennis Federation junior rankings.
Nemeth was quoted on the Tennis SA website as saying: “His first qualifier was a great display of what he is capable of doing on court and he played a great match. He played a very good player and Bertus dominated him with his big forehand and serve from start to finish.
“In his final round qualifying, it was a more tense and gruelling affair. Theirs was the last match of the day and the rain came down at regular intervals. There were two rain delays and that added to all the drama. Conditions were very heavy and Bertus fought from start to finish, and that’s what was needed to win 7-5 in the third set and qualify for the main draw”.
Although he has become a star on the court, Kruger was born into a rugby-loving family.
Focusing on school
“My dad and I thought until the age of 11 that I would play rugby. I still love the game and I always watch with my dad”.
On what is next for him, the Grade 12 pupil highlighted the importance of focusing on school.
“The rest of the year is going to be tricky with matric [exams], but I will maybe go and play at the US Open.
“In five years’ time, I would like to see myself playing great tennis and still enjoying what I’m doing”.