While most major sporting codes in the country with
representation in the event will now be increasing the degree of anticipation
and excitement involved in participating in the Olympic Games, South African
tennis will be out in the cold when the august extravaganza gets underway in
Brazil in August.
Conspicuous as this might be, it is only further
confirmation of the sorry state in which South African tennis has become
becalmed at top level - raising the disconcerting indictment reflected in
William Shakespeare's Hamlet that something is indeed "rotten in the state
Once widely recognised as one of the five most progressive
and enterprising tennis nations in the world, attracting many of the game's
greatest players to these shores, South Africa today does not feature among
more than 50 countries staging an ATP tournament at one level or another.
Tennis South Africa will tell you it is simply a case of
finance that is crippling the game in the country in this manner, but if
countries with a limited tennis pedigree like Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Peru, the
Philippines, the Dominican Republic and Guadeloupe, to name a few, are able to
host an ATP event, it should not be beyond South Africa, who once staged a
South African Open that was recognised as the fifth most prestigious tournament
on the planet.
Today, for some reason or other, the basic essential of a
South African Open at even a modest level no longer exists.
And, apart from Kevin Anderson, who does not seem
over-interested in lending a hand to those running tennis in South Africa - or
competing in the Olympic Games for that matter - and world 16th-ranked doubles
specialist Raven Klaasen, who does not have a partner in the country ranked
high enough to play in Brazil, no other local players have the necessary
ranking credentials required for participation.
The situation is particularly disconcerting because only a
handful of countries like the four who stage Grand Slam events, England, The
United States, France and Australia, can boast better tennis-playing facilities
than South Africa - or more burgeoning players at youth level than South
While South Africa feature among an elite few who have been
victors in both the men's premier team competition, the Davis Cup, as well as
the women's Fed Cup, the country today has been relegated to what can be termed
the third division in both these events.
What is more, tennis is booming around the world, with the
International Tennis Federation boasting more affiliated countries than any
other sporting organisation apart from FIFA - and the Davis Cup the biggest
annual sporting team competition in existence.
So what is rotten in the state of Denmark as far as South
African tennis is concerned? The shortage of money?
In practical terms
the answer might be yes. But it has not stopped organisers of other sporting
codes in South Africa like soccer, cricket, rugby, golf and netball from
attracting sizeable sponsorships.