WTA Tour

Brenda Kirk an inspiration SA Fed Cup squad

Earl Grainger (Photo: Reg Caldecott)
Earl Grainger (Photo: Reg Caldecott)

Cape Town - Brenda Kirk, an icon of South African women's tennis whose death at the age of 64 in September was strangely only publicised three months later, will be an inspiration for the current Fed Cup players when the country's youthful squad returns to the Euro-Africa Group One segment of the competition for the first time in a decade in Israel next month.

Kirk was a member of the historic line-up that included Pat Pretorius and Greta Delport that annexed South Africa's only Fed Cup title after a tumultuous 2-1 final win over Great Britain at Ellis Park in 1972 - and she came to be recognised among South Africa's most renowned and respected women tennis players after a distinguished career.

South African Fed Cup captain Earl Grainger, who guided the team to promotion from the Euro-Africa Group Two segment last year, says it is the fighting spirit, dedication and self-belief that was demonstrated in the 1972 triumph that the current squad of Chanel Simmonds, Ilze Hattingh, Madri le Roux and Michelle Sammons will need to emulate in what looms an awesome undertaking in Israel.

"The 1972 squad defied all expectations on their way to glory," added Grainger, "and while it is only promotion to World Group Two we will be seeking this time, it's the same attitude that will be required in the 12-team event from which two countries will gain promotion - and two, likewise, will be relegated.

"If you go by the rankings" says Grainger, "we are without a chance.

But our budding players have the ability to surprise the sceptics if they approach the tournament in the right frame of mind and this is the message I will be driving home."

While South African No 1 Simmonds is currently ranked 318th in the world - Hattingh is next best at 671st and Le Roux is on 707th - the majority of the remaining squads have players ranked among the top 100 women in the world.

And Great Britain, for an example, who are in the same initial round robin group of three with South Africa, can boast a line-up that includes 47th world-ranked Johanna Konta, who this week accounted for Venus Williams in the current Australian Open, and the respected, 79th-ranked Heather Watson.

Kirk's daughter, Natasha, says many have expressed amazement their mother's death had not been widely publicised earlier.

"We were deeply shocked by the sudden death of my mother," she added.

"It was not on our minds to inform the media at the time and why they did not hear about it from other sources I cannot explain."

Kirk died in her sleep as a result of heart failure a poignant two weeks before she was due to consult a cardiologist for what was believed to be a minor heart discomfort.

"The doctor's consultations were fully booked, preventing an earlier appointment. What transpired was, in the circumstances, a complete shock."

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