THE future of South African tennis looks promising after a top display at the Growthpoint Junior Masters last weekend.
One promising lad who stole the show was none other than 14-year-old Pretoria boy Kholo Montsi. He scooped top honours and won the boys’ under-16 Growthpoint Junior Masters title.
He beat Robbie Arends from Western Province 6-2 6-4 in the final at the Riaan Venter Tennis Academy in Potchefstroom.
The Growthpoint Junior Masters showcases South Africa’s top young talent with the top 96 boys and girls battling it out for top spot in a three-day tournament.
“I was over the moon when I got that trophy. It felt like such a big sense of achievement not only for me but for my family ,” he said. Kholo also won a travelling voucher to anywhere in the world. “I’m still trying to figure out where I am going,” he chuckled.
Kholo was the youngest competitor, playing against rivals two years older than him in the under-16 category. Asked whether he felt intimidated he replied: “No not at all. If fact I knew I had to work harder and faster. Those guys were strong, both physically and mentally."
Kholo is living proof that dynamite comes in small packages as he is a cut above his age and height, playing with a sense of fearlessness. He now finds himself outside the Top 500 international juniors but hopes to better his brother Sipho's best ranking of 92 in the world.
Last year, Kholo was ranked the best under-14 tennis player in South Africa. Now he is the second best under-15 on the continent.
He did admit that tennis had not always been his first love. He started out with karate at school, but after seeing what tennis did for his older brother he jumped on the bandwagon. “My brother was travelling almost every month to different places. So I thought to myself I want that life. So I started playing tennis."
When he is not practising tennis, he loves listening to music or to play drums and piano.
He looks up to Sipho whose performance continues to motivate him to be the greatest.
They both started playing tennis at a very young age and have aspirations of being the flag bearers of the golden generation of SA tennis stars.
Sipho, 17, was one of three South African juniors at the Australian Open with the others being Philip Henning, from Bloemfontein, and Joshua Howard-Tripp, from Boksburg.
Sipho received glowing praise from Judy Murray, mother of former world No 1 Andy Murray while playing at the recent Australian Open. Murray tweeted a photo of herself with Sipho.
The Montsi brothers have blossomed as players since their parents, Xolani and Phumla, moved them from East London to Pretoria in 2012.
Father Xolani is proud of his boys, especially because they learnt the sport by themselves. “There has never been a tennis bone in our family. My boys developed the passion and are thriving.
"It is every parent’s dream to see their kids utilise their talent,” he said.
But money looms large as the biggest threat to the future stars, who were offered places at the IMG Academy in Florida, US. They needed R1.5million to send each of the boys there.
The Montsi brothers were supposed to have left South Africa last August, but time ran out with not enough money collected to send them.
“We are in desperate need of financial assistance, because no matter how good my boys are without the finances they are not going anywhere,” their father said.