ATP Tour

Federer would like to see revival of SA Open

Roger Federer (Photo supplied by Roger Federer Foundation)
Roger Federer (Photo supplied by Roger Federer Foundation)

Cape Town - Tennis legend Roger Federer says he would like to see the return of top-level tennis to South African shores.

READ: Federer thrilled to be back 'home' in South Africa

The now defunct South African Open was a frontline event on the tennis calendar in years gone by - there was even talk in the late 1970s and early 1980s of the event replacing the Australian Open as one of the official four Grand Slams.

The Australian Open was struggling for popularity during that period with many of the top Americans players of the time often not even attending the year's first major.

That all changed in the late 1980s when the Australian Open moved from the lawns of Kooyong to its current Melbourne Park headquarters and the event has since grown into one of the top sporting events around the world.

In comparison, the SA Open - which was first staged in 1891 - lost its vigour and was eventually abolished in 1995. It had a brief reprieve as a lower-tier ATP event between 2007 and 2011, but there has been no event staged for the best part of the last decade.

Federer has a strong connection to South Africa, with his mother Lynette having grown up in the country and he often visited these shores with his parents as a youngster.

"I think South Africa is always going to come up with some tennis players because they've got the history here. They used to have tournaments here... then they keep on disappearing and they keep popping back up. And I really hope South Africa could have a nice tournament moving forward," Federer said at Cape Town International Airport on Wednesday.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion is in the Mother City for his Match in Africa exhibition with Rafael Nadal at Cape Town Stadium on Friday.

It will be the sixth instalment of exhibition matches for Federer's foundation. To date, the foundation has raised over $52 million in support of educational and athletics programmes for children in Africa.

Federer conceded that hosting a frontline tennis event would "not be easy" for South Africa.

"It's (South Africa) not around the corner. Obviously, everybody always wants the biggest and the best players to come, like any other country, but maybe it doesn't need to be the biggest tournament.

"Calendars always keep on changing so I really hope that somebody keeps an eye open - if there is an opening for tennis to have a tournament back in South Africa."

For tennis to boom in South Africa, the country needs players featuring at the top-level and currently Lloyd Harris and Kevin Anderson are carrying that mantle.

Federer said he was impressed by Harris, a rising star on the ATP Tour currently ranked at No 85.

Harris, 22, recently made his first ATP final at the 250-level event in Adelaide where he lost to Russia's Andrey Rublev.

"I think Lloyd Harris played great in Adelaide. I remember watching his semis and finals. I also played him at Wimbledon last year," Federer said.

Harris duelled Federer in the first round at Wimbledon last year where the South African won the first set before the Swiss roared back to win the next three.

"Of course, Kevin, we've had some epic battles... at Wimbledon a couple of years ago he beat me in an epic one," Federer said, referring to the five-set battle in which he lost to Anderson in the 2018 Wimbledon quarter-finals.

Anderson rallied back from two sets down to win 13-11 in the fifth set. He would go on to make the final where he lost to Serbia's Novak Djokovic.

Anderson also made the US Open final in 2017 where he lost to Nadal.

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