No tennis hope for SA at Olympics

2016-07-04 12:57
Kevin Anderson (AFP)

Cape Town - The ITF on Sunday announced a star-studded field  for next month's Olympic Games tennis tournament that included all the top 10 men's and women's players - but with South Africa a conspicuous absentee among the 51 competing countries

It was another distressing example of the becalmed state of South African tennis at top level - particularly as  the country stands in fourth position on the all-time list of Olympic Games tennis gold medallists and seventh in the overall tennis medal count.

The only two South Africans whose world ratings might have earned them a berth in Brazil were the now-30th ranked Kevin Anderson in singles and 16th-ranked Raven Klaasen in doubles.

Anderson, however, effectively disqualified himself from Olympic Games participation by declining to play in the Davis Cup in the last five years - a mandatory ruling laid down by the ITF - and Klaasen was stymied by the fact that there was no other South African with a suitably high ranking to qualify as his doubles partner.

The latest sombre down-grading of the once world-respected local tennis fraternity comes in the wake of no South Africans qualifying for either the second round of the men's or women's singles at the prestigious current Wimbledon Grand Slam tournament.

The Olympic entry is headed by world No 1 men's player Novak Djokovic (Serbia), and Serena Williams, at the helm of a notably powerful United States women's squad which includes her sister, Venus, Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys.

And intriguingly thus far, in direct contrast to the world's top golfers, many of whom have declined to participate in the Olympic Games because of the outbreak of the Zika virus, the tennis elite have stuck to their guns with no notable withdrawals as yet  raising the issue of what constitutes the difference in attitude of the tennis players and the golfers.

Meanwhile, returning to Wimbledon, Klaasen and his America partner, Rajeev Ram, have made it through to the third round of the men's doubles, but now face a testing challenge against fifth-seeded Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo - and probably an even tougher encounter for the South African-USA duo against either Radek Stepanek and Nenad Zimonjic or the Mike and Bob Bryan brother duo if they reach the quarter-finals. 


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