Tough year for SA tennis

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iol spt dec27 Tennis REUTERS Monaco Davis Cup teammates Benjamin Balleret and Guillaume Couillard have gone into the tennis record books after playing out a 70-point tiebreak.

Johannesburg – It was a tough year for South Africa's top ranked tennis players, with Kevin Anderson and Chanelle Scheepers falling steadily in the global rankings.

Big-serving Anderson, the country's top men's player, ended the year in 37th position in the ATP ratings list after reaching a career-high 28th in March.

There were a number of positives, however, for Anderson, who had some impressive performances along the way, lifting the Delray Beach 250 series title in Florida in February when he defeated Australian Marinko Matosevic in the final.

He also reached the third round of the Australian Open in January and the French Open in May.

Anderson was eliminated in the opening round of the main singles draw at Wimbledon in June and the US Open in August and rounded off the year by reaching the third round of the ATP World Tour Masters in Paris.

At the end of the season, Anderson parted ways with Louis Vosloo, his coach of two-and-a-half years.

A few weeks earlier, Vosloo had said his charge could climb into the top echelon of global tennis, after Anderson narrowly lost to Argentine second seed Juan Martin del Potro, who fought back to beat the South African 3-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 in their third-round clash at the Swiss Indoors.

“He will start winning many of these close encounters and be ranked among the top 20 in the world,” Vosloo predicted.

“When Kevin gets confident and fully believes in himself, there is no reason he cannot win these tough matches and fulfill his dreams. It's only a matter of time, I believe, with very exciting times ahead for him.”

Scheepers, meanwhile, ended her season in 60th place in the WTA ratings, 23 spots lower than her career best after a breakthrough campaign the year before.

She was eliminated in the first round of the Australian Open in Melbourne in January, and was also knocked out in the first round of Wimbledon and the US Open, though she progressed to the second round of the French Open.

She ended her year on a more positive note, reaching the third round of the HP Open in Japan in October.

Meanwhile, Tennis South Africa (TSA) pulled a surprise when it gave away the rights to host the Davis Cup World Group playoff against Canada, requesting for the September tie to be moved to Montreal due to financial constraints.

The team, made up of Nikala Scholtz, Izak van der Merwe and Raven Klaasen, and captained by John-Laffnie de Jager, lost 2-1 to the Canadians, falling at the final hurdle for the fourth year in succession as they failed once again in their attempt to regain their status in the top tier of the men's global team event.

They were again left without the services of Anderson, who controversially made himself unavailable for the tie, and Davis Cup veteran Rik de Voest, who injured his wrist on the eve of the playoff.

The women's Fed Cup team, also captained by De Jager, advanced through the round-robin stages at the Euro-Africa Group Two event in Cairo, but missed out on promotion to Group One after losing 3-0 to Turkey in the playoffs.

They will compete in Group Two for the second successive season in 2013 following their promotion from Group Three in 2011.

With no international tournaments in South Africa in 2012, next year already looks brighter, with sports minister Fikile Mbalula announcing the revival of the Soweto Open in 2013, which will see the staging of the tournament once again at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre. – Sapa


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