Johannesburg - Former South African professional tennis player, Rene Plant, has been named by Tennis South Africa (TSA) as the country’s new Fed Cup captain.
Plant will oversee the national women’s team for the next three years - up to and including the end of the 2020 Fed Cup campaign.
Johannesburg-based Plant, nee Uys, was inspired by her Aunt - former tennis great, Pat Pretorius, to become a professional player at the age of eight.
Plant was inspired by South Africa’s win in the coveted Fed Cup at Ellis Park in Johannesburg in 1972. Pretorius was part of the winning team and gave Plant the inspiration to become a top player. When Pretorius gave Plant the winning engraved brooch that the South African team were awarded after their historic win, her real journey to tennis success began.
“Pat told me to follow my dreams, and I did just that,” said Plant, who was born and bred in Bloemfontein. Plant was one of the country’s most successful junior players, ranked in the world’s top 10 as a junior and reaching the Wimbledon Junior singles final in 1981, losing to American, Zina Garrison. In 1983 Plant turned professional and reached a world ranking career high of 30.
Since retirement from professional tennis, Plant has been involved in every facet of the game from being a pro player, a tennis parent, to being a professional coach from schools to provincial and national level. Plant has also been a selector, administrator and presently is the head of tennis at one of the country’s leading tennis schools, St Mary’s School Waverley. Plant still plays competitively on the seniors circuit.
“I am extremely excited and honoured at being appointed the Fed Cup captain. The Fed Cup is the pinnacle of women’s tennis in South Africa and it will be a privilege to be part of the team and to work with the top female tennis players in the country” said Plant.
Plant was named earlier this year as part of the women’s task force team introduced by TSA to look into the state of female tennis in the country. This is what Plant says, “ignited a spark and gave her hope” that the current state of women’s tennis in South Africa had a positive future.
“The camaraderie and support amongst the women’s coaches, administrators and ex professional players has been great and I believe that by working together as a team, with a clear vision and goal in mind, we can build the women’s game to where it belongs.”
The challenges facing Plant, she admits, are real as the Fed Cup team are ranked low on the international world rankings (69) and are competing in the Euro/Africa Group 3, with South Africa’s next Fed Cup event due to take place in Montenegro or Tunisia in April next year.
“Despite the challenges facing me, my goal is to set high standards, in a nurturing atmosphere, as we are definitely in a rebuilding phase. Building each player’s confidence and self-belief in their abilities will also be one of my priorities. South Africa’s number one player, Chanel Simmonds is playing extremely well at the moment and I am hoping that this form will carry through to 2018. We also have some very talented juniors coming through the ranks. We are facing an uphill battle even in the Europe/Africa Group 3, as some countries like Tunisia have a top ranked player like Ons Jabeur who is ranked 91 in the world. However, promotion to Group 2 will be our first goal as a team.”
Plant believes that there have been some very positive developments over the past year in South African tennis and felt this momentum will help to develop and inspire a new generation of tennis players.
Richard Glover, TSA CEO, concluded: “We were very impressed with the quality of the applicants we received for the position - however, Rene was the unanimous choice of the selection panel. She has a clearly defined leadership style and vision for the Fed Cup team and is keen to work closely with TSA in a very collaborative fashion. We are confident she will have a very positive impact on tennis in South Africa over the next three years.”
Part of Plant’s new role will include involvement in the new TSA junior national squad system - including responsibility for the SA U18 girls team who participate in the annual African Junior Championships.