Bjorn Borg’s son headlines star-studded David Samaai Open ITF field in Cape Town
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Cape Town - Some of the world's finest tennis talents will be in action at the David Samaai Junior Open, the ITF Junior Grade A tournament, starting on Monday in Cape Town.
Eleven of the main-draw players are in the top-100 of ITF Junior Boys rankings. They are sandwiched between Sweden's Leo Borg at 28-world ranked and Orel Kimhi of Israel who slots in at 99.
There are two South Africans in the main draw. They are Devin Badenhorst (162 world-ranked) and Luc Koenig (166), son of former South African professional Robbie Koenig. They might be joined by other South Africans depending on the results of the qualifying rounds on Saturday and Sunday.
The ITF Junior Grade A tournaments are one notch below the Junior Grand Slams, the most prestigious events for juniors. There are only six ITF Junior Grade A tournaments every year. Together with the Junior Grand Slams, it is the traditional launchpad for the finest talents to go on to achieve success in the professional game.
Borg, the son of 11-time Grand Slam champion and former world No 1 Björn Borg, is the top seed. He has a world ranking of 28.
Behind Borg, there is a strong contingent of players from Eastern European countries, and they account for the seeds 2 to 6. They are Peter Privara (32-world ranked, Slovakia), Jakub Mensik (38, Czech Republic), Bor Artnak (44, Slovenia), Adam Jurajda (50, Czech Republic) and Sebastian Dominko (57, Slovenia).
Mehdi Benchakroun (84, Morocco) is the only African player in the world top-100 rankings and is seeded seventh. There are three other Moroccans in the field.
Koenig looks like South Africa's best bet for the title. He plays under the Curro banner and used to attend Curro Hillcrest, an independent high school in Hillcrest, Durban. In the last few months, the 160-world ranked player has switched to Curro Online.
He is in good form after winning a Grade 3 event in Johannesburg last month.
Jared Temlett, Operational Manager Curro Sport, is thrilled that South Africa will be hosting the ITF Junior Grade A tournament.
“These events put South Africa on the map," said Temlett. "We do have a slight disadvantage being so far away from other traditional tennis-playing countries. It means that our players do not always get access to international talent, which is key to developing their skills.
"By bringing the world to us, our players are exposed to top opponents. It does not only improve their game but also their ranking should they win."
The David Samaai Junior Open is named after the South African tennis legend, David Samaai, who passed away in 2019. At the inaugural event two years ago, the title was claimed by the then South African teen sensation Kholo Montsi, who managed a world top-20 junior ranking afterwards.
The main draw starts on Monday at the Kelvin Grove Courts in Newlands and ends on Saturday when the final will be played.
Leo Borg (SWE) - 31
Peter Benjamin Privara (SVK) - 35
Jakub Mensik (CZE) - 40
Bor Artnak (SLO) - 44
Sebastian Dominko (SLO) - 58
Mehdi Benchakroun (MAR) - 91
Neo Niedner (GER) - 98
Alexander Blockx (BEL) - 101
Brenda Fruhvirtova (CZE) - 10
Ksenia Zaytseva (RUS) - 18
Petra Marcinko (CRO) - 20
Barbora Palicova (CZE) - 28
Johanne Christine Svensen (DEN) - 45
Clervie Ngounoue (USA) - 48
Yaroslava Bartashevich RUS) - 56
Maria Sholokhova (RUS) - 68
RSA Wild Cards, Boys: William Zulch, Andreas Scott
Girls: Suzanie Pretorius, Leigh van Zyl
CAT Wild Cards, Boys: Connor Henry Van Schalkwyk (NAM), Youssef Labbene (TUN)
Girls: Feryel Ben Hassen (TUN), Jermine Sheryf (EGY)