The death of a number of "Super Veterans" recently, highlighted by the passing of the legendary, multi-talented player and author, Gordon Forbes, on Wednesday, has cast a pall over what has generally been an encouraging return of tennis in South Africa after the lengthy shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The grim fatalities have, no doubt, been a significant contributing factor insofar as entries for the older age-groups of players on the South African Veterans circuit having noticeably diminished.
There was a time when the SA Veterans programme included a stimulating age-group section for over-85 players. More recently the oldest segment has been set for players over 80. But following the return of tennis after the continued pandemic, the 80 age-group section has been eliminated from tournaments; 75 and 70 age-group sections have been reduced to what at times have been pitiful numbers and even the 60-age sections have been affected.
Tennis South Africa (TSA) has been able to point out that the younger age-group veteran categories - now starting from the over-30 entries - have been quite satisfactory under the circumstances and are improving in some instances.
Also, at a social level, the number of players returning to active participation at most clubs is increasing steadily - and this even includes a number of players in excess of 80 years of age!
Open tournament entries are also increasing and coaches are gradually returning to business, with players in their teens and younger bidding to refine and approach their potential in junior events under strict provisions and rules to limit the effects of the pandemic.
But still the pall of Covid-19 hangs over the proceedings - with the spike of cases in "hot spot" areas causing TSA to revise and postpone tournament dates in some of these areas.