Top-class field for KZN Open at Kershaw Park

2009-01-06 00:00

IN terms of SA tennis tournaments, the Braaiketts KZN Open starting at Kershaw Park today boasts a high-quality field that is sure to enthuse spectators right up to Sunday’s finals.

Battling for the R58 000 prize-money is the strongest entry in the event’s history. Top seed is 26-year-old Raven Klaasen of Western Cape, who is ranked fourth in SA and provides a formidable challenge for the 28 other singles players, while he and KZN Open second-seeded singles exponent BJ van Rensburg signal a significant obstacle for the 15 other doubles combinations.

Recently, Klaasen won ITF Futures tournaments in SA and Gabon, has captured various other Futures events and was top seed for the recent SA Closed tournament. He is ranked 357th in the world.

Gautenger Van Rensburg is sixth in SA and about 1 200th in the world.

Third seed is Gauteng’s Andy Anderson, who won the recent SA Closed Championships, beating Klaasen and Van Rensburg. The serve-and-volleyer has a career-high world ranking of 395.

Another feature player is KZN Open fourth seed Neville Godwin, who had a 90th world singles ranking at one point, in comparison to current SA number one Kevin Anderson, who is presently at 108th. Godwin reached the singles last 16 at Wimbledon in his heyday, had a doubles world ranking of 57 and lost narrowly to Britain’s former world number six Greg Rusedski while playing for SA in a Davis Cup tie.

Others to watch are locals Gareth Greenwood and Boyd Michau (fifth and sixth seeds). Ranked 11th and 13th respectively in SA, the duo are also SA’s top-ranked doubles combination. Other threats to the top seeds are Gauteng’s Kevin Kerr, seeded seventh, and eighth seed Louis Botha of Western Cape, last year’s SA U18 number one. Dangerous floaters are Tyrone Ewels, Nicholas McDonald, Bruce Young and Jonathan Hills.

The three top seeds enjoy first-round byes, so the eye-catching singles matches today see Godwin against KZN’s Ross Hemsley (court two, 8.30 am), Young versus Brett Lagerwall (court one, not before 11.30 am), and Kerr taking on Free State’s wily Alex Zietsman (court two, not before 1 pm).

Apart from prize-money, the commitment of Pietermaritzburg-based sponsors E&C Charcoal to this event is emphasised by their provision of free accommodation in one of the capital’s foremost establishments for the top players.

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