January’s KZN Open will be 113th

2009-12-24 00:00

THE annual Braaiketts KZN Open and Junior Tennis Championship take place at Kershaw Park from January 6 to 10.

It is the 13th Braaiketts event for juniors, while this is the 113th KZN Open. Entries for the junior and senior championships close on December 31.

A brief history of the Natal/KZN Open reveals that the first Natal Tennis Championships were held in Pietermaritzburg in 1884, just 10 years after the invention of what we know as tennis and long before the Natal Tennis Association (now KZN Tennis) was founded in 1902.

Mabel Grant, who won the Natal ladies’ singles eight times, was also the first South African champion from 1891 to 1894.

Over the years, these championships have attracted many leading South African players, and large crowds watched the finals.

Distinguished players who have competed are Bobbie Heine Miller, Billie Tapscott, Norman Farquharson, Eustace Fannin, Eric Sturgess, Gordon Forbes, Margaret Hunt, Pat Cramer, Kevin Curren, Liz Ford, Lynton Cousins and Dale Michau.

Miller, from Winterton, became the Natal senior champion at 15, the SA champion at 18 and at 19 was ranked seventh in the world. She was ranked world number five at the end of 1929.

Eric Sturgess was a 1947 and 1951 French singles finalist and a U.S. finalist in 1949. By the end of his career, Sturgess had reached nine Grand Slam finals and won three titles (1947 French doubles and the 1949 and 1950 Wimbledon mixed doubles).

This year the KZN Open will only include men’s tennis as top open ladies’ tennis over the past years has failed to produce the players required to induce the sponsors to hold such an event. The men’s is a different story, and the event has grown from strength to strength. Prize money on offer is the highest for any open tournament on the SA calendar, with the exception of the SA Open.

Entries include last year’s winner and SA Davis Cup player Raven Klaasen, 2008 winner Ruan Roelofse, Pieter Joubert, Pieter Calitz (all Western Cape), Paul Anderson, BJ van Rensburg (Gauteng), Alex Zietsman (Free State), Gareth Greenwood, Boyd Michau, Andrew Junkuhn and Tom Macquet (all KZN).

Tournament director Hilary Greenwood said he is hopeful that a number of prominent players will still enter.

A feature of this edition is that the KZN Open men’s singles and doubles finals will be the best-of-five sets, making it the only tournament in SA to have five-set finals. The last KZN Open five-set final was in 1975.

Meanwhile, after a successful Mndeni Meats junior tournament this month, the Pannar Greytown junior tennis tournament entries close on January 13, with the tournament being held from January 15 to 17. Contact Derek Brown for more details at 083 228 9243.

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