SA's Wimbledon trio have put tennis back in the spotlight

Richard Glover (Photo: BLD Communications)
Richard Glover (Photo: BLD Communications)

Cape Town - The CEO of Tennis South Africa (TSA), Richard Glover congratulated Kevin Anderson, Raven Klaasen and Wheelchair Tennis SA star, Kgothatso (KG) Montjane, for their collective achievements at Wimbledon 2018.  

Both Anderson and Klaasen lost in their respective singles and doubles finals while Montjane reached the semi-final of the wheelchair singles competition.

TSA issued a lengthy statement congratulating the three as well as outlining future developments for tennis in the country. 

The statement read:

"On behalf of TSA, I wish to extend our congratulations, but also our gratitude, to Kevin, Raven and KG for their fantastic performances in London over the past fortnight. These three players must receive all the credit for what they have achieved, but at the same time TSA thanks the trio for putting local tennis back in the public spotlight.

Kevin, Raven and KG come from diverse backgrounds and have followed diverging paths to get to where they are. As a result, their achievements will symbolise different things to different communities across our country. From a TSA perspective, the trio obviously represent the best of local tennis, but more importantly they also symbolise what local tennis could become on a consistent basis – diverse, inclusive and delivering on a global stage.

Indeed, the collective achievement of all three players has the potential to significantly advance the efforts of TSA - to both redress past imbalances and enable more emerging South African tennis players to achieve similar success.

First to Kevin – His 2018 Wimbledon was so much more than the final – it was a fortnight of magnificent performances, extreme physical endurance and displays of awesome mental strength. However perhaps most impressive were his post-match interviews, in which he displayed his integrity, sportsmanship and humanity. He is an incredible ambassador for our sport.

My view that TSA did not do enough to support him earlier in his career is well documented. My opinion on this remains unchanged and as a federation we are trying to learn the lessons from the past and put in place a more comprehensive programme to support our elite junior players and rising stars.

For example - this year at Wimbledon we had a player feature in qualifying for the men’s singles and two players participate in Junior Wimbledon (one in the main draw and one in qualifying). All three of these players have received a level of support from TSA in the past 12 months – be it financial support or assistance with obtaining ITF grants or traveling coach support. Meanwhile, elsewhere within our structures, we also now provide monthly funding to five players in our Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams.

Is it a step in the right direction? Yes it is.

Is it enough? No, it is not. Far more needs to be done.

Next to Raven – While Kevin has received much of the media attention and focus, Raven’s run to reach the men’s doubles final also requires massive congratulations. It is a great personal achievement, but also a historically significant one as well - for the transformation of tennis in South Africa. Raven is a wonderful role model and leader in our sport and, mark my words, could well be a future President of Tennis SA.

People criticise tennis in South Africa for being elitist and not doing enough to transform the game. We take that criticism to heart and are committed to inclusive growth via several key interventions.

To mention just two of these interventions - we are busy rolling out five Growthpoint Development Centres in historically under-serviced communities in South Africa. Three are in place, with two more to follow. These have both a grassroots and high-performance focus – grassroots in terms of growing tennis participation in those communities and high performance in terms of giving the most talented kids in those communities a real chance to compete at a higher level.

Meanwhile, from a coaching perspective, we have also launched a new BNP Paribas Coaching Mentorship programme aimed at widening the demographic of registered coaches in South Africa - by creating more sustainable opportunities for black and/or female coaches. 44% of the year one intake are black females.

Is it a step in the right direction? Yes it is.

Is it enough? No, it is not. Far more needs to be done.

Last but not least – KG, who represents our sister body, Wheelchair Tennis South Africa. The first black African woman to participate at SW19 - she is a trail-blazer, barrier breaker and a history maker. She could well inspire a new generation of females to take up our sport. As an aside, the work that Wheelchair Tennis SA does must be applauded and TSA has much to learn from them – especially in the grassroots development space.

One of the strengths of tennis is that it is a sport that is played and supported almost equally by men and women. From a TSA perspective, we have become increasingly focused on investing in female tennis and thanks to the support of our new partner, Wiphold, there are several new projects in that space. For example - our new Wiphold U16 travelling squad is providing funding and support for selected girls, who represent all communities in South Africa, to compete in international events. Meanwhile, Louisa Mojela, the CEO of Wiphold and one of South Africa’s leading business leaders, is now a patron for local female tennis and is starting to do some great work behind the scenes.

Is it a step in the right direction? Yes it is.

Is it enough? No, it is not. Far more needs to be done.

Thank you Kevin, Raven and KG. You have created a massive wave of interest in our sport and TSA now needs to surf that wave  - for the good of tennis in our country!

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