Mammoth task to revive SA tennis

2017-01-10 13:46
Richard Glover (Photo: BLD Communications)

Cape Town - New Tennis South Africa CEO Richard Glover has delivered a promising "open letter" to the entire spectrum of the game in the country - outlining plans to awaken what he has termed "the sleeping giant."

But while Glover's manifesto, so to speak, is calculated, promising and bathed in basic improvements in several areas, it does not remove from further than the drawing board the essential ingredients required to resurrect the halcyon years of South African tennis when the country featured among the leading proponents of the sport in the world in both playing capability and widespread public interest in the local product.

Tennis itself remains among South Africans in keeping with its status as second only to soccer as the world's most widespread sport, but it is the Grand Slams and other major tournaments and the likes of internationally acclaimed and charismatic superstars like Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal,  Andy Murray and the Williams sisters that precipitate and nurture the interest.

South Africa right now has no tennis heroes of its own to match those emanating from other sporting codes.

And, worse still, the country no longer hosts a major international event, while considering that at one stage the South African Open was elevated to a position where it was regarded the fifth most prestigious tournament in the world - with less status only than the four Grand Slams.

Today shamefully, the South African Open no longer exists, not even in some modest guise - and despite regular promises from TSA to revive it.

At the root of South African tennis's dilemma is the inability to keep pace with the sport’s awesome financial implications - and also making it a priority to unearth world-class talent.

Glover would seem to recognise this in his plans for a revival and in the absence of a major sponsor has suggested a conglomeration of benefactors each contributing a minimum of R100 000 could set the ball rolling.

But the enormity of the financial challenge - despite other sporting codes seemingly faring a lot better in this respect - is reflected in the fact that the Kia-sponsored Australian Open in Melbourne next week will boast record prize money amounting to R700m rand.

And the bitter irony of this spectacular success is that the current architect of the Australian Open, 54 year-old tournament director and CEO, Craig Tiley, is a South African, whose plans for tennis in the country of his birth were rejected before he sought greener pastures further afield.

Read more on:    atp tour  |  wta tour  |  richard glover  |  sy lerman  |  tennis

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