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.