Curren mystified by SA's lack of top-class talent

2018-07-04 15:11
Kevin Curren (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - As Wimbledon unfolds again amid its distinctive, perennial appeal and grandeur, the sombre reality exists once more that South African hopes rest solely in the hands of Kevin Anderson in the men's singles and Raven Klaasen in the men's doubles.

In stark terms, what this further reflects, is that in the past decade South Africa has not produced a single  world-class player - either in the men's or women's categories.

This dearth of local talent at the top level is demonstrated by South Africa's number two men's singles player, the 21-year-old Lloyd Harris, losing in the first round of the Wimbledon qualifying segment - an experience he had suffered in his first attempt to break into the elite blue riband events of tennis during the recent French  Open.

And Kevin Curren, the only South African-born male to reach the men's singles final at Wimbledon when he lost to a barnstorming, teen-aged Boris Becker in 1985 - Sandra Reynolds is the only South African women to duplicate this feat, losing to the legendary Maria Bueno in 1960 - proclaims he is "mystified" by the drought among South African tennis players.

"Players like Cliff Drysdale, Johan Kriek and Wayne Ferreira and others of the ilk of Eric Sturgess, Abe Segal and Gordon Forbes before them were always highly competitive at Wimbledon", says Curren, "and it was not unusual for South Africa to have a representation of five or six players in the singles draws.

"Now we are relying only on Kevin, who came to the fore in 2008 and matured in the United States, and Raven, now approaching the veteran stage, to carry the South African torch - and this should not be the case in a country with such a commendable international tennis tradition and facilities that would make many other countries envious."

Curren believes a period of stagnation in the administration of South African tennis contributed to the decline - but he says it is comforting to see current Tennis South Africa CEO Richard Glover making a valid and honest attempt to turn the tide.

"Finance, of course, is a major problem," added Curren, "but then who is not short of cash?"

Curren says at the recent French Open at Roland Garros he organised a symposium among a group of prominent South African players and personalities to discuss means of reviving South African tennis.

"Some interesting suggestions came to the fore," he added. "But we'll have to wait and see. Tennis has undergone some major advancements and the talent in depth worldwide is nothing less than staggering.

"Talent alone is not enough unless players are prepared to sweat blood to reach an awesome level of fitness to scale the top bracket."


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