SA Davis Cup stalwarts boost Soweto Open
South Africa's long-serving Davis Cup stalwarts Rik de Voest and Izak van der Merwe are set to enter the forthcoming R800 000 Soweto Open and provide a timely boost for the revived event at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Complex.
Van der Merwe, who will effectively be the defending champion, and De Voest were the finalists when the tournament was last staged two years ago, and have figured prominently each time the event has been held.
"As an ATP Challenger tournament," said De Voest on Thursday, "the Soweto Open provides Izak and myself with a timely opportunity of earning world ranking points in conditions with which we are familiar and have done well in the past.
"At the same time," he added, "it gives us the opportunity of assisting South African tennis with an important project to boost the sport among the previously disadvantaged section of the population."
De Voest and Van der Merwe have also confirmed their availability for next month's crucial Euro-Africa Davis Cup clash against Poland in Warsaw.
Launched four years ago at the venue, which was the brainchild of the late USA tennis icon, Arthur Ashe, the Soweto Open provided a much-needed boost to the local circuit. It was however placed in cold storage last year after the Johannesburg city council's three-year sponsorship had run its course and a new sponsorship could not be negotiated.
The announcement of a R5 million grant from the department of sport, however, had placed the Soweto Open back on course.
The men's Soweto Open will be played from April 29 to May 4 while the women's tournament will be staged from May 6 to 11, Tennis SA has announced.
The tournaments have been sanctioned by the respective men's and women's international governing bodies, the ATP and the WTA, and will carry international ranking points.
"The two tournaments have been played concurrently," said a Tennis SA spokesman, "but the decision was taken to separate the events this time around to showcase tennis over two weeks and also fall in line with the government's stance to highlight women's sport."
Under ATP and WTA rules players ranked in the top 50 in the world cannot enter Challenger events.