Leo-Smith to lead SA Fed Cup tennis side

2009-04-16 00:00

The new captain of the South African Fed Cup tennis team is Pietermaritzburg-born Greer Leo-Smith (née Stevens). Her appointment was announced in Johannesburg yesterday.

The 52-year-old former world number seven will lead a side that includes Pietermaritzburg’s Kelly Anderson into the Euro/Africa Group II competition in Antalya, Turkey, from next Wednesday to Saturday.

The team announced by the SA Tennis Association is headed by Natalie Grandin (world number 243 singles and 71 doubles), who is joined by Lizanne du Plessis (650 and 413), Anderson (848 and 227) and Christi Potgieter.

Leo-Smith takes over from Rowena Sanders (nee Whitehouse) who did not put her name forward for re-election.

Leo-Smith said the SA team is in a rebuilding phase and she is happy with her players and the team spirit in the squad.

“Team spirit is key to winning these competitions,” she said.

“We are going to Turkey to enjoy ourselves and at least maintain our place in the group.”

In SA’s favour is that the competition will be played on hard court.

SA are joined by Georgia, Portugal, hosts Turkey, Latvia and Morocco.

The round-robin event will see two pools of three. The pool winners play the runners-up in the other pool, with the winners promoted to Euro/Africa Group I next year.

The bottom nation are relegated to Group 3.

The SA team certainly has a captain with the right pedigree.

Leo-Smith won three Grand Slam mixed doubles titles (two Wimbledons and one U.S. Open) in the late seventies with Bob Hewitt — ironically all three against compatriot Frew McMillan and his Dutch partner Betty Stove.

She retired the day before her 24th birthday — not because of her troublesome knee, for which she wore a brace that was quite cumbersome by modern standards — but because she was to marry fellow PMB resident Kevin Leo-Smith.

It was the end of 1980, her best year on the world circuit, which saw her earn the world number seven singles ranking.

Meanwhile, the R1 million ITF Soweto Women’s Open, sponsored by the city of Johannesburg, takes place at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Complex in Soweto from next weekend until May 3.

Jonathan Cook will be in Soweto for the Women’s Open.

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