The announcement that tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams will be visiting these shores in November should be welcomed.
Hopefully it will also highlight the lack of progress with the game in South Africa. They will attend a coaching clinic in Soweto, a gala dinner and a televised exhibition match at Ellis Park – the first time the sisters will meet each other in competition on African soil.
This is not the first time that American tennis stars have lent a hand to promote the game in South Africa. Arthur Ashe who won three Grand Slam titles, played a key role in overseeing the construction of a state-of-the-art tennis facility in Soweto in the 1970s. The eight-court mixed-use precinct, originally built with funds donated by Ashe was refurbished to the tune of R4.5-million in 2007. So where are our stars?
The South African Davis Cup team is tackling Canada in Montreal over the next few days with a squad that is ranked way down in the global seedings. These include Izak van der Merwe (ranked 152) and Rik de Voest (ranked 170th). South Africa’s highest ranked player, Kevin Anderson, is not available to play because ‘the tie comes at the end of a long hard court season’.
Good luck, Team SA! At the moment, this country’s biggest claim to fame in international tennis is that Roger Federer’s mother is South African. Yikes! It’s a bit like the desperate (but true) revelation that New Zealand’s highest paid sportsman was Tiger Woods’ former caddie Steve Williams. The tragedy is South Africa has produced numerous tennis greats over the decades, including Frew McMillan, Amanda Coetzer, Kevin Curren, Johan Kriek and Wayne Ferreira.
With the dearth of young talent, questions must be asked about the development programmes that are currently in place. Maybe the visit by the Williams sisters will address this.
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