Legendary Swedish player Bjorn Borg is in Cape Town to support his son, Leo, in the David Samaai Junior Open. Picture: Supplied
Legendary Swedish player Bjorn Borg is in Cape Town to support his son, Leo, in the David Samaai Junior Open. Picture: Supplied

South Africa serves up a buffet of tennis events countrywide

By Herman Gibbs Time of article published Oct 26, 2021

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Cape Town - Over the next few weeks, South Africa will host a slew of high-profile tennis events which add impetus to burgeoning growth of the game on different levels countrywide.

Tennis South Africa (TSA), the governing body of tennis in South Africa, are hosting an International Tennis Federation (ITF) junior boys event, which started yesterday. The tennis treat continues well into the new year with the world-class Rafa Nadal Academy camps in Gauteng, Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal.

The ITF Junior Grade A tournament underway in Cape Town is one of only six Junior Grade A tournaments every year. These tournaments are one notch below the Junior Grand Slams, the most prestigious events for juniors. 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.

The Cape Town event has a high-quality field and 11 of the maindraw players are in the top-100 of the world junior boys rankings. They are sandwiched between Sweden's Leo Borg at 28 and Orel Kimhi of Israel, who slots in at 99.

Borg, the son of 11-time Grand Slam champion and former world No 1 Björn Borg, is the top seed. The legend Björn Borg, affectionately known as 'Ice Borg' because of his calm demeanour on the court, has been in the Mother City since early last week.

Next, the focus moves down the N2 to the picturesque Strand in Somerset West and home of Grand Slam-winning coach, Jeff Coetzee, TSA's Director of Tennis. TSA host two weeks of ITF World Tennis Tour prize money events for men and women at the famous Strand Tennis Club.

Starting in mid-December, there will be two weeks of men’s $15 000 (about R221 662) prize money events and two concurrent weeks of women’s $25 000 (about R369 437) prize money events. The tournaments form part of the ITF World Tennis Tour and serve as a pathway from the junior game into the elite levels of professional tennis.

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The cream of South Africa's juniors and fledgling internationals from both Africa and abroad will be in action.

There is a difference in prize money, and with the higher purse for the women’s events, the ITF is looking to encourage more $25 000 women’s events across the globe and has provided TSA with funding support to upgrade the women’s events.

After these tournaments end, Strand will be a hive of activity from 26 – 31 December for the first of three Rafa Nadal Academy camps. The camps will be hosted by Sim Tours, in partnership with TSA. After Strand, the three-day camps move to Bryanston Sports Club, Gauteng (3-5 January 2022) and then the Curro Tennis Academy, Hillcrest, KZN (7-12 January).

Tennis icon Rafael Nadal has previously staged his academy camps with great success in South Africa. Apart from his appearance with Roger Federer in the Africa Exhibition match in Green Point in February last year, he played in several events in South Africa as a junior. Today he has a strong bond with South Africa.

On many of his visits, Nadal had close contact with well-known tennis promoter Bruce Davidson, who, a was the rights owner of the South African leg of the Nike Junior Tour.

Davidson managed the SA-Under 12 team at the 1998 Nike Junior Tour International Masters in Stuttgart, Germany. The team included Kevin

Anderson, who later became the world No 5. While putting the team through their paces on the practice courts, the Spanish team arrived, and they were stranded since they failed to book courts.

The Spanish team included Nadal and after a discussion between the Spanish team's manager Sebastián Nadal (Rafa's father), Davidson arranged for Anderson to share a court with Rafa Nadal.

Today the two players still enjoy a strong friendship. The same could be said about Sebastián Nadal and Davidson.

The following year, Davidson managed the team at the Nike Junior Tour International Masters in Barcelona, Spain. This time the Nadals were on

home turf and hosted the South Africans with great delight in a hotel with the Spanish team.

South Africa hosted the 2000 Nike Junior Tour International Masters at Sun City and the Nadal family came out to watch their son in action. Rafa won the title - his third in a row. Nadal and his family fell in with South Africa and extended their stay by five days. Davidson treated the family to an assortment of safaris and tours during that time.

A few years later, Rafael Nadal returned to South Africa as a 16-yearold. He was injured (ranked top 30 in the world at the time) and accepted Davidson’s invitation to attend the Nike Junior Tour International Masters as a guest at Sun City.

Rafael Nadal and his best friend Toni (not to be confused with his uncle Toni) spent 10 days holidaying at Sun City. Davidson says Rafael Nadal learnt how to play golf that year at Sun City and today is a scratch handicap golfer. Since then, he has always attributed his love for golf to his first ever experience on the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City.

Nadal also rode elephants, played with lion cubs, learnt to play African drums and enjoyed Sun City with his bestie Toni.

Toni Nadal said the camps have proved to be a great learning experience for players around the world. It will be of great benefit for South Africans.

"We have developed a strong relationship with Tennis SA and Sim Tours," said Toni Nadal, Tennis Director of the Rafa Nadal Academy.

"The excitement around setting up and confirming the camps lead us to partner with these two great organisations for a third camp.

"The successes we have achieved in Spain enable us to extend and expand our camps to South Africa. This is also a great way for South African players, both juniors and seniors, to experience first-hand how the Rafa Nadal Academy operates and functions.

"We hope this will grow the sport at all levels in South Africa."

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