TENNIS SOUTH AFRICA CEO, Richard Glover's work-in-progress plan incorporating transformation and development across the country's social demographic seem to be gaining momentum as Team SA did a hatched job by claiming a clean sweep of their Europe/Africa Zone Group 2 tie against East European opponents, Slovenia.
The senior team’s quest in graduating towards World Group 1 occupied by the likes of Brazil, is but a crucial stream of 5 months old tenured Glover’s projection which also include working on the racial content of the junior talent coming through the ranks as evidenced by the emergence of teenagers, US-based Zoe Kruger, Soweto-based Amukelani Mokone, Western Cape-based Thandolongwe Smit and the Montsi brothers, Siphosothando and Kholo – to mention but a notable few.
In the junior ranks’ sphere, which encapsulate under-12s to under-18s, National tournaments such as the one held in Bloemfontein, offer a measure of showcasing the cuts above the rest such as 14 year old Kholo whilst simultaneously assisting the local sporting authorities to have a vetting model with which to edge forward by.
Current professional hope, Lloyd Harris also came through such ranks.
Glover’s trajectory also extends to realising a 50-50 split of players and trainers representative of the four racial demographics of the country – in fact, the evidently enthusiastic executive, speaking whilst observing a relatively new version of the sporting code named -Beach Tennis -being played at a sand-filled court juxtaposed alongside the traditional courts of the Irene Country Club, described the soon to be unveiled plan as one of the best of any sporting code on offer.
Under Glover brief tenure the sport is presently occupying a comfortable spot as vital sponsors such as vehicle makers Kia, telecoms giant Vodacom, apparel-maker Lotto and IT brand Axnosis, have come on board. The venue over the past weekend had car models spotted around its parking bays and display spots and the playing team looked fairly resplendent in the familiar green and gold.
Asked about Central Western Jabavu’s Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre being in danger of being rendered into a white elephant due to under-use and the sport ministry’s canning of tournaments such as the short-lived Soweto Open, Glover ruefully acknowledge government having to weigh funding priorities but whilst expressing hope of a near-future rescue act of a world class venue which back in 2012 was graced by the presence of tennis queen pins in the form of Venus and Serena Williams – in addition to having initially hosted Davis Cup ties.
But other than such challenges, the teenaged juniors are making steady strides as recently attested by under-18, Kruger’s triumph at a Tunisia tourney, whilst White City SA high schools’ under-15 player, Mokone has recently been called up to represent the country at a UK jaunt in June.
On the other hand, the 17 year old affectionately referred to as, “Siphs” has together with kid sibling, Kholo, amassed no less than seven tournaments. The older Montsi is regarded among the local sport’s circle as a wonder-kid and earlier made headlines when none other than top four player, Andy Murray’s mom and coach, Judy, commented that he was “one of the most naturally talented players” she had ever seen.
Murray tweeted a photo with Sipho pending the Australian Open in January.
The spotlight for the humble youngster continued when ahead of the Davis Cup, TSA invited him to join the squad as an official hitting partner where he got to rub shoulders with the likes of recent Indian Wells’ doubles champion, Raven Klaasen.
Montsi was quoted as expressing gratitude for being part of the team, as well as deeming it an honour to representing his country whilst hoping to learn a lot from the senior players and the coach, Ondruska.
Glover’s organisation is confident that the Montsi brothers would form the nucleus of a new “golden generation” in South African tennis.
Yet “Siphs” and Mokone, who could potentially be future first African professional representatives face off-court challenges posed by lack of funds to propel their budding careers forward.
In home schooled grade 11 Montsi’s case, he sorely needs about R3 million in order for him to enrol at a US academy in August – whilst Mokone, raised by her grandmother, desperately has to raise an amount in the region of R20 000 (last Tuesday), if she is to make the UK trip.
Although partly taken off by benefactor, Zenzile Hlongwane, who has contributed towards training shoes and other basics – if she doesn’t come up the amount, she’d miss out on a chance to be part of an excursion which would incorporate spending two days at Wimbledon.
Of the two, Sipho enjoys the benefit of sound parental support as his father, Xolani, was on the courtside at Irene, to lend support to the prospect who lists musician Drake as a chill-time treat, and plans on studying sport science.
Initially from East London but now Pretoria-based, the Montsis seem to have sport coursing through their veins as dad dabbled in rugby and cricket whilst mom, Phumla, who was absent owing to international travel, was a sprinter.
Mentioning families and combining to make a festival atmosphere for South African tennis, Klaasen’s was also there in full support in the form of mom Yvonne, dad Jacob, sister Lynne, brother Kevin, cousin Mario, brother-in-law Vernon – as well as the doubles ace’s petite and pretty wife, Celeste.
Klaasen was in a good space having recently triumphed at the Masters 1000 Titles in Indian Wells on a week Swiss master Roger Federer continued to confound skeptics by lifting the singles diadem to prove that his 18th grand slam victory at Melbourne was no fluke.
As individual match wins Klaasen beat Nadal, Djokovic, Berdych, Tsonga and the Bryan brothers in doubles play.
Glover and TSA’s streams seem to be converging seamlessly as worldwide team tennis, the now all too familiar lineup of Lloyd Harris, Nicolaas Scholtz, Ruan Roelofse and Raven Klaasen, made light work of the visiting team of Tomislav Ternar, Greja Zemlja and Mike Urbanija over three days which, for the first two days, saw play schedule shifted to afternoon start times.
The Kia SA Davis Cup team marched through to the next round of the Euro/Africa Zone Group for a September date with one of either, Denmark or Norway when Harris, who’d just turned 20, overcame Urbanija, 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 and followed by Scholtz’s 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 triumph over Zemlja – on Friday.
The hosts then raced to a 2-0 lead when the duo of Roelofse and Klaasen brushed aside the Slovenian double partnership of Zemlja and Temar, 7-6, 6-2, 6-4 in Saturday’s only match.
Spurred on by the boisterous chanting of green t-shirt clad schoolgirls from Laerskool Hermanstad [ever present at Davis Cup rubbers on account of one of their teachers, Adri du Plessis being chief of umpires] waving flags, dead rubber day on Sunday saw Harris and Scholtz duly confirming Team SA, seeded 8 making a clean sweep against an opponent seeded second, and thereby ensuring progressing through for a match up with one of the Scandinavian countries.
Tennis SA also ensures that officials’ growth is taken care of as the services of two chair umpires, Steve Kgaphola from Tembisa and Mxolisi Matyolo are utilised.
The recent tie was Kgaphola’s second whilst Matyolo was on his fourth Davis Cup.
Kgaphola holds a White Badge officiating status, whilst Matyolo carries a Silver Badge as a referee and White Badge for chair umpiring.
South Africa and Slovenia were battling it out in Davis Cup competition with the head-to-head score level at 1-1. As winners, Team SA stands a shot at being promoted to the Euro/Africa Group 1 in 2018.
Thus, Glover, in spite of being at the helm of Tennis South Africa for a brief period, is firmly driving the sport in a promising direction whilst harnessing all the stream energies to stand the code in pretty good stead.