SA tennis in a dismal state

Tennis (File)
Tennis (File)

While most major sporting codes in the country with representation in the event will now be increasing the degree of anticipation and excitement involved in participating in the Olympic Games, South African tennis will be out in the cold when the august extravaganza gets underway in Brazil in August.

Conspicuous as this might be, it is only further confirmation of the sorry state in which South African tennis has become becalmed at top level - raising the disconcerting indictment reflected in William Shakespeare's Hamlet that something is indeed "rotten in the state of Denmark."

Once widely recognised as one of the five most progressive and enterprising tennis nations in the world, attracting many of the game's greatest players to these shores, South Africa today does not feature among more than 50 countries staging an ATP tournament at one level or another.

Tennis South Africa will tell you it is simply a case of finance that is crippling the game in the country in this manner, but if countries with a limited tennis pedigree like Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Peru, the Philippines, the Dominican Republic and Guadeloupe, to name a few, are able to host an ATP event, it should not be beyond South Africa, who once staged a South African Open that was recognised as the fifth most prestigious tournament on the planet.

Today, for some reason or other, the basic essential of a South African Open at even a modest level no longer exists.

And, apart from Kevin Anderson, who does not seem over-interested in lending a hand to those running tennis in South Africa - or competing in the Olympic Games for that matter - and world 16th-ranked doubles specialist Raven Klaasen, who does not have a partner in the country ranked high enough to play in Brazil, no other local players have the necessary ranking credentials required for participation.

The situation is particularly disconcerting because only a handful of countries like the four who stage Grand Slam events, England, The United States, France and Australia, can boast better tennis-playing facilities than South Africa - or more burgeoning players at youth level than South Africa.

While South Africa feature among an elite few who have been victors in both the men's premier team competition, the Davis Cup, as well as the women's Fed Cup, the country today has been relegated to what can be termed the third division in  both these events.

What is more, tennis is booming around the world, with the International Tennis Federation boasting more affiliated countries than any other sporting organisation apart from FIFA - and the Davis Cup the biggest annual sporting team competition in existence.

So what is rotten in the state of Denmark as far as South African tennis is concerned? The shortage of money?

In practical terms the answer might be yes. But it has not stopped organisers of other sporting codes in South Africa like soccer, cricket, rugby, golf and netball from attracting sizeable sponsorships.

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