Kevin Anderson will play in South Africa for the first time since 2011. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s favourite tennis son, Kevin Anderson, will make his return to the country in an exhibition match at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Soweto early in the new year. 

The two-time Grand Slam finalist will be crossing swords with rising star Lloyd Harris in February. The match will be part of Tennis SA’s (TSA) BNP Paribas Rising Stars tournament final. 

Anderson will make his return to a South African tennis court for the first time since he won the 2011 SA Open at Montecasino. 

“As a programme ambassador I feel extremely proud to see this initiative grow and make a real impact on the development of South Africa’s future tennis stars,” Anderson said in a pre-recorded message on Friday.

“I am delighted to reveal that I will be returning to South Africa to play an exhibition match against fellow South African Lloyd Harris. Lloyd is part of an exciting new generation of players that are making a name for themselves on the ATP tour. For me, there is no better way to support a new tennis revolution with a South African sporting showdown.”

Hollywood heavyweight Forest Whitaker attended the announcement at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Jabavu on Friday. The American actor has partnered with BNP Paribas to encourage entrepreneurial initiatives among young people in Cape Town through the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative. 

TSA chief executive Richard Glover said the match between Anderson and Harris represented the handing over the baton from an accomplished player to the rising star.

“It is quite symbolic for us in that you have Kevin who is the most well-known South African tennis player of the moment playing against Harris,” Glover said. 

Glover said he had met Anderson earlier this year to discuss the plan with the American-based player.

“I was so impressed with the fact he was so interested in junior tennis and trying to support programmes that grow junior tennis,” Glover said.

“He was interested from the beginning to get involved with this, and I was delighted that he will come back and play here.”

Anderson’s loyalties have been questioned by some that criticised his decision to opt-out of playing Davis Cup tennis for South Africa. 

Glover said Anderson’s involvement in the Rising Stars initiative which aims to increase youth in tennis served as an example of the country’s top-ranked singles player’s dedication to the sport in South Africa.

Lloyd Harris in action during the 2019 Davis Cup game against Dimitar Kuzmanov (Bulgaria) at Kelvin Grove Club in Cape Town. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

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“Kevin is at a stage of his career where he’s got a set time period to maximise his earnings and opportunities to win trophies as a professional player,” Glover said.

“But I don’t think representing South Africa in Davis Cup is necessary everything because being an ambassador for an event like this shows he is committed and interested in local tennis.

He will also be representing South Africa in the new ATP Cup which is a new national team event that takes place just before the Australian Open.”

@ockertde

 

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