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World Team Tennis

After the hype of our victory against The Netherlands I drove straight to OR Tambo to get on a SAA flight back to New York for 15 days of World Team Tennis. This would be my 13 th year being of WTT. I played for 8 years and for the last 4 year I have been coaching the Springfield Laser. The team was based in Springfield Missouri and we competed in the Western Conference. You have the Western and Eastern Conference with teams playing home and away matches, the 2 top teams in each conference will play in the Conference finals and then the 2 winning teams will compete for the Championships. It is lots of travelling with each team playing 14 matches in 24 days. In the last 4 years we have made it to the Western Conference finals 3 times, winning it in 2009 and had match points to win the Championships but it was not meant to be. This year my team was Rik de Voest, Paul Hanley, Carly Gullickson and Lilia Osterlol. Rik and I missed the 1 st week because of our Davis Cup commitments so when we arrived in Boston the team was 1-4. Our girls where taking some strain and lost some close matches. Raven Klaasen replaced Rik for the 1 st 5 matches and played some great tennis. He only lost 1 match. Raven is and old Laser who played for the team in 2009.

Rik had a great season only losing 1 match. Our wheels came off after our 7th match when Paul got injured and was ruled out for the rest of the season. Carly also picked up an injury and that didn’t help matters. Jean Andersen a very talented player from SA who I coached as a junior joined the team replacing Paul for 4 matches and really did well playing doubles with Rik.

The night Paul got injured I had to jump in and play when Paul pulled out. It was great fun playing but not to great if you can’t warm up. Rik and I ended up winning in overtime but I pulled my hamstring and pulled a muscle in my back. The drama didn’t stop there. The next night we were in a car accident. A guy drove into the back of our taxi. I went straight into the front seat hurting my neck and back. The next 4 days I could hardly move and struggled along like an old man.

We ended with a 5-9 record that was not to greatest but we had fun and I just love the WTT format. This is defiantly something we must bring to South Africa.

Strawberries and Cream

It was a very enjoyable 3 weeks on the grass again.

I always love going to Wimbledon the best tournament in the world. I have so many great memories of this tournament. I have an apartment in Wimbledon so it is like living at home. This year was my 22 nd straight Wimbledon. I feel very privilage that I can do what I love at a very special place.

I had a new challenge this year, 4 weeks before the grass court season I was called by Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich, Isreals Davis Cup doubles Team and they wanted to know if I would help them during the grass court season. They are a very good doubles team and won the Australian Open in 2004. Yoni had shoulder surgery and was out for 2 years. During this time Andy played with different partners while Yoni did some rehab. They reunited their partnership but they where struggling a bit and thought that they needed someone to help them. I had a blast with them and where very impressed with their professional way of doing things. Our first tournament was in Eastbourne and we had a great start with the boys winning their 1 st title in 3 years. They went into Wimbledon with lots of confidence. Unfortunately they lost to Karlovic and Bogomolov Jnr in the 1 st rnd. Due to the rain the 1 st rnd mens doubles matches was reduced to the best out of 3 sets instead of 5 sets. I always believe that in a best out of 5 set match the better player or team will win most of the time. With Karlovic’s big serve they boys where playing Russian Roulette. In the mixed doubles Andy lost in the 3rd rnd and Yoni in the quarterfinals. Rik de Voest had his best Wimbledon when he qualifid for the 3 rd time but this time he won his 1 st rnd and lost in the 2 nd rnd. Kevin Anderson put up a great fight against eventual winner Novak Djorkovic, and in the doubles Wesley Moodie and partner Dick Norman lost in the 3rd rnd. Wimbledon will not be the same without the Royals, and I was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time when William and Kate showed up at Wimbledon. On their way to centre court they walk pass the mens locker room and I just came out of the locker room to go and have lunch when I was stopped by security and said we had to wait because Royalty was on their way. I stood infront of the locker room and watched the newly weds walk right passed us. I must say William is a lucky man. Once again it was very special to be part of this great tournament.

Losing the SA Open is a huge loss for SA Tennis

The South African Tennis Open, held for the past three years at Montecasino, was the biggest tennis tournament in Africa. It attracted top international players and provided a necessary boost for the local tennis scene.

Shortly after this year’s tournament it was announced that the ATP wouldn’t extend SATA’s three year lease. Contrary to popular belief, it had nothing to do with a lack of money. The ATP needed to shorten its season and the easiest way was to cut out tournaments not owned by individual entities.

The loss will be felt on all levels. Firstly, it provided South African players the opportunity to earn valuable points on their proverbial home ground. Apart from local star Kevin Anderson winning this year’s tournament, Izak van der Merwe went on to play in the Semi-finals and Rik de Voest in the Quarter-finals. Playing before your own supporters certainly helps.

For our junior players it provided the opportunity to see world-class players such as Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, Gael Monfils and David Ferrer. This is necessary not only for the obvious excitement surrounding these players, but also to bridge the gap between SA and a world that can sometimes seem far away. This made their dreams real.

Tennis, just as any other sport, need money. Big sponsors follow the crowds. The SA Open was broadcasted to 75 different countries. There was a group of businessmen ready to buy the SA Open, wanting to invest their money from grass-roots tennis to international tournaments. Smaller events can’t guarantee that exposure and will just not attract the necessary sponsors.

It is our hope that we can persuade the ATP to support a move to privatise the SA Open by guaranteeing a place for the event on the international calendar. This backing would reignite the independent financial interest we had already attracted to the event. However to make this happen and to successfully lobby the Tour we need the support of the South African government and our local sponsorship and broadcast market.

As it stands, we are now left with the Soweto Open, won this year by Izak van der Merwe, and the Davis Cup. South Africa is competing in the World Group Play-offs in September. We will play Croatia in South Africa. Hopefully this will ignite the necessary interest that sponsors need to invest in this wonderful game. Our tennis players are ready to once again compete at the highest level.

John-Laffnie De Jager ( South African Davis Cup Captain)

 

Davis Cup South Africa vs The Netherlands.


Right after Wimbledon the SA Players all got on a plane and headed back to South Africa for our all important Euro-Africa group 1 match against the The Netherlands. The tie was played in the town of Potchefstroom. Most people where very surprised at the decision of Potchefstroom but this is want the team wanted. As the home team we can decide where we want to play. I normally follow the following steps in deciding where we will play

  1. Ask the players opinion where they would like to play?
  2. Look at our opponents and see on what surface they like to play on, or dislike to play on.
  3. I then contact SATA and give them the players choice.
  4. Sata will come back to us with different choices and then we decide as a team where we think we have the best chance of winning.

Unfortunately we don’t have different surfaces to choose from in SA so most of the time it is hard courts, but the big one is High altitude or Low altitude. High alltittude has worked for us in the past and that is always the players 1 choice. The last 5 home ties 4 where in Johannesburg and one in Pretoria. We had a look at all the possible venues and we liked the setup in Potchefstroom. The North West University got behind the Tie and together with SATA was preparing the home venue for us.

The Team was Kevin Anderson, Rik de Voest, Izak van der Merwe and Wesley Moodie. This was the best possible team and the strongest team I have selected in 3 years. Kevin was not part of the team the last 3 years and it was great to have him back.

I had a very difficult decision to make between Rik de Voest and Izak van der Merwe for the number 2 singles spot. Izak has really lifted his game to the next level and beat Rik in the finals of the Soweto Challenger earlier in the year. Unfortunately Izak hurt his back in our 1 st practice session and was unable to prepare for the singles. So my singles players for day one was going to be Rik and Kevin. Rik lost in 4 sets and Kevin won in 4 sets to level the score at 1 all after day 1. I always knew that the doubles was going to be a huge match because going into Sunday with a 2-1 lead would be huge. Both the teams had world class players in Anderson and Haase and on any day one of them can beat top 20 players. On the Wednesday morning Wesley Moodie woke up with a high fever and we where hoping that he would recover for the doubles match on Saturday but it was not to be. He pulled out and suddenly I had to make a huge decision who will play the doubles. I really thought with Wesley and Kevin we had the edge but now I had to field a new team. I decided to go with Rik and Kevin and they played like stars winning in 4 sets. It was crucial for us to go into Sunday with a 2-1 lead.

Kevin showed his class and won in 4 sets to clinch the tie for South Africa.

 

We will know battle in the World group play-offs in September to try and get into the World Group. This will be our 3rd year in a row playing in the play offs. Lets hope 3 rd time lucky.

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