Pretoria - South Africa’s rising tennis star Lloyd Harris and the country’s top ranked female player, Chanel Simmonds, are two of 29 players from 20 countries that have been selected to receive the 2018 International Player Grand Slam Grants financed by the Grand Slam Development Fund (GSDF).
The programme, now in its second year, will provide total funding of $650 000 (R8 million) to selected players from around the world as a contribution towards their competition-related costs, with the aim of helping them to develop as professional tennis players and compete in Grand Slam tournaments.
The GSDF committee has more than doubled the amount of players receiving grants this year. The committee considers specific age, ranking and regional representation criteria, with all recipients deemed to show exceptional potential.
The following 12 men and 11 women will receive $25 000 (R306 750) grants: Lloyd Harris (RSA), Magdelena Frech (POL), Dalma Galfi (HUN), Xinyu Gao (CHN), Valentini Grammatikopoulou (GRE), Youssef Hossam (EGY), Hubert Hurkacz (POL), Soon Woo Kwon (KOR) Duckhee Lee (KOR), Edan Leshem (ISR), Fangzhou Liu (CHN), Kamil Majchrzak (POL), Sebastian Ofner (AUT), Rebecca Peterson (SWE), Zsombor Piros (HUN), Casper Ruud (NOR), Sabina Sharipova (UZB), Ipek Soylu (TUR), Fanni Stollar (HUN), Viktoriya Tomova (BUL), Elias Ymer (SWE), Mikael Ymer (SWE) and Tamara Zidansek (SLO).
In addition, the following two men and four women will receive $12 500 (R153 375) grants as the highest ranked players in their respective regions, to ensure that at least one player from each region receives a grant: Hugo Dellien (BOL), Darian King (BAR), Daniela Seguel (CHI), Chanel Simmonds (RSA), Abigail Tere-Apisah (PNG) and Renata Zarazua (MEX).
This year’s recipients include eight players who received grants in 2017 and who continue to meet the GSDF committee’s criteria. New recipients who continue to meet the criteria will be eligible for an additional grant of up to $25 000 in 2019.
Five of this year’s recipients - Magdelena Frech, Soon Woo Kwon, Casper Ruud, Viktoriya Tomova and Elias Ymer - competed in the main draw at the 2018 Australian Open
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said on behalf of the Grand Slam tournaments: “This is a magnificent opportunity for young players from countries where federations are unable to support them or may not have the means. We want to invest in the long-term in these players, and this is the first step in that direction.”
ITF president David Haggerty added: “The continued growth of our sport is dependent on increasing opportunities for players from all countries. I am delighted that this Programme has been expanded to give more players the chance to develop their careers and for more nations to feel the benefits of support from the Grand Slam tournaments.”
Elias Ymer commented: “I’m really thankful for these grants. This is very much needed money as I am travelling full-time with a tennis coach. I have to pay for the coach’s salary, flights and physiotherapist, which is not cheap but you have to invest to make it and this money comes in perfectly. I was No 280 when I received my grants last year and now I’m No 140. I want to use the grants to invest even more in my team this year, and I want to continue riding this wave.”
The GSDF was originally established in 1986 to encourage and increase competitive opportunities in developing tennis regions. With annual contributions from the four Grand Slam tournaments, the fund has become an effective means to develop competitive tennis worldwide. The Fund has contributed more than $50 million to tennis development since its inception, with more than $3 million available for distribution in 2018.
The fund is designed to encourage the establishment of both junior and professional circuits, and to assist players directly, through touring teams or travel grants, to gain international competitive experience. This has helped increase the number of nations represented in Grand Slam tournaments and other international competitions.
Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka; former Australian Open and Roland Garros winner Li Na; three-time Roland Garros champion Gustavo Kuerten and current Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko are among the leading names to have been supported by the Fund.