Chanel Simmonds says she wants to return to playing Grand Slams. Photo: Reg Caldecott

PRETORIA – Chanel Simmonds, South Africa's highest world-ranked female tennis player, has not given up on her Grand Slam dream.

The 27-year-old Simmonds played in the 2013 US Open main draw, which was the only time she has played a Grand Slam. She has played qualifying at the Wimbledon, French and Australian Opens, but failed to make the main draw.

Next Monday, Simmonds will again pursue that Grand Slam dream at the ITF World Tour Tournament at the University of Pretoria’s (Tuks) complex, where she will be one of the highest-ranked female players participating.

Simmonds is currently 387th on the WTA-rankings and, while she might also be one of the older players on the ITF-circuit, it is important to note that age can be misleading. The South African is now more committed than she was when she started in professional tennis 10 years ago.

“I fully realise there is no more time to waste if I want to fulfil my dream of again playing Grand Slam Tournaments,” said Simmonds.

“I've got to improve my ranking. The only way to do so is by winning tournaments.”

Simmonds has already won three ITF singles titles this year. In total, she has accumulated 21 ITF singles titles over the years.

The highest she has ever been ranked on the WTA circuit was 158th, which was in 2013.

Simmonds has also been an integral player for the SA Federation Cup team over the last 10 years.

For the ITF World Tennis Tournament at Tuks, Simmonds says she won’t dwell on the age-issue too much as, at times, it tends to bring her down. But she is also quick to add that being older has stood her in good stead this season.

"During the tournaments, I won it was my experience that made the difference at crucial moments as I did not panic. When feeling pressured, I resorted to going back to the basics."

She ascribes herself as a counter-puncher when playing.

"I play mostly from the baseline, trying to absorb the power from my opponent’s shots to my advantage in an attempt to try and wear them down. I am not the biggest hitter of the ball who can hit one winner after another.”

As a left-hander, it is no surprise that Simmonds is an avid fan of German Angelique Kerber, who is a former world number one and a winner of three Grand Slam tournaments. Kerber is also left-handed.

"I often watch her play, trying to pick up ways to improve my own game."

Her advice to young players trying to make it on the professional circuit is that hard work beats talent on any given day.

There is $15 000 (R225 000) prize money for the men's as well as women singles at stake during the ITF World Tennis Tournament at Tuks. More importantly, though, is the international rankings points on offer.

The tournament starts on September 30, with the finals being played on October 6. 

African News Agency (ANA)