Tennis: Soweto to stage two top events at Arthur Ashe Centre

2009-03-18 00:00

HISTORY will be made when Soweto hosts two top international events at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre next month.

Some 16 years after his death, the dream of three-time grand slam singles winner and former world number one Arthur Ashe will become a reality. The Soweto Men’s Open and Soweto Women’s Open will be played at the venue that bears his name.

Jabavu in Soweto sees the men’s ATP tournament from April 11 to 18 and the women’s ITF competition from April 25 to May 3. Each tournament carries R1 million prize money. These are the first-ever major international tennis tournaments to be staged in Soweto and are sponsored by the City of Johannesburg.

Following his controversial decision to play in the SA Open at Ellis Park in the 1970s, Ashe sponsored the tennis complex in Soweto to assist budding young black players. Over the years, the complex has been in decline, but two years ago, Ashe’s widow, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, opened the first phase of renovations — a joint venture between the SA Tennis Association, SA government and the National Lottery. Eight courts have grown to 16, plus the addition of a permanent grandstand on the 2 400 capacity showcase arena.

“Following the success of the recent SA Open, we are looking forward to Soweto hosting its first ever Challenger Tour event,” ATP World Tour CEO Brad Drewett said.

Jonathan Cook will be in Soweto for The Witness.

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