SA tennis ‘needs fresh ideas’

2008-09-17 00:00

The president of KZN Tennis, Wartburg-based Gavin Crookes, was recently appointed to the SA Tennis Association (Sata) main board.

“This is excellent news, as his contribution is vital for tennis to prosper in South Africa,” president of the Midlands Tennis Association (MTA) Hilary Greenwood, told The Witness this week.

“Gavin will be responsible for the finances of Sata plus the arranging of tournaments.”

Greenwood said tennis in SA needs new enthusiasm and fresh ideas, better administration and support. He said clubs need to encourage junior players to join, while more singles events must be played in the various leagues and competitions.

The MTA president said too much emphasis is placed on doubles, whereas special attention by Sata needs to be focused on senior events, where at present so many players are lost to the game on leaving school.

“Generally junior tennis is doing well, but Open tennis [above age 18] needs to be improved. Once a good tennis player is out of the junior ranks they will struggle financially as they have to travel abroad to earn ATP points.

“To achieve these all-important ATP points and so get on the world ranking system, a player must compete in tournaments designed for this. At present there are only two in South Africa, while over the course of a year there are over 30 on the African continent. South Africa needs to have 10 of these events each year in the country.”

This would mean two tourneys in KZN, two in the Eastern Cape, two in the Western Cape and four in Gauteng. These tournaments are called Future Events and the Futures are the first structure of the ATP/ITF set-up. After the Futures events, the next structure is the Challenger events and after that the main ATP circuit, where the likes of Nadal and Federer compete.

“I believe Sata are making an error in striving for the Challenger event, as held earlier in the year in East London, and now the possibility of an ATP event in 2009,” said Greenwood. “As nice as it is to have Federer, Nadal and so on in the country, it is not helping the young South African. The cost of staging a Challenger or ATP event is huge in comparison to the Future events. Charity must begin at home. Let’s help our own players. I urge SA Tennis to take note and rather have 10 Futures.”

An SA player wishing to get a world ranking and compete in events must have an ATP/ITF ranking. To get a ranking a player must compete in a Future event and win at least a first-round match. A Futures event consists of 32 players in the draw. However, to get into a Futures tournament is not easy. Huge entries are normally received from players all over the world.

Players that enter may already have ATP/ITF points, and the first 24 places of the 32 are taken on world rankings, four places are offered as wild cards to the local organisers, while the remaining four spots go to those who reach the semi-finals of the preceding qualifying tournament. The qualifier could well have a field of 64 and many among them, will already have ranking points.

“If we have Future events spread across the provinces, then the local organisers have the four wild cards, which can be allocated to the top local players to give them an entry into the main draw,” said Greenwood.

“These tournaments will help SA players tremendously and will attract many players from different parts of the world. The MTA is working with KZN Tennis to try to have two of these tournaments in the province next year. One in Durban and one at Kershaw Park and the aim is for July 2009. Each tournament, however, will cost in the region of R200 000 to stage.”

Greenwood is open to ideas on these matters and can be contacted at 082 553 2971.

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