Veterans cash in during low-key SA Nationals
Veteran Old Edwardian players Brendan Zackey and Julie Mansour took the opportunity to cash in with none of South Africa's leading players participating in the revamped National Championships at the Groenkloof Tennis Centre in Pretoria.
Zackey, ranked fourth in Tennis South Africa's over-35 rankings and an outsider at this level, reached Friday's men's singles final of the event previously known as the SA Closed Championships before going down 6-1 6-1 to Tucker Vorster, another unseeded player.
Mansour, South Africa's second-ranked over-35 women player, emulated Zackey's achievement in reaching the finals stage, before losing 6-1 6-1 to Western Province's top-seeded Lynn Kiro in the women's singles final.
Leading South African players who participate on the ATP and WTA international circuits like Kevin Anderson, Chani Scheepers, Rik De Voest and Izak van der Merwe were not expected to play at Groenkloof, but it had been hoped that the top young talent in the country would be involved in the tournament that offered R10 000 prize money to the singles winners and R6 000 to the runners-up.
Earl Grainger, a former ATP circuit player who now coaches some of South Africa's brightest up-and-coming tennis hopes, was critical of the manner in which Tennis South Africa had organised and re-launched the tournament.
"It was not so much the modest prize money," said Grainger, "but there was little incentive for the up-and-coming prospects to participate. I had players who have been included in Davis Cup and Fed Cup squads practicing at my club in Johannesburg, rather than playing in the Pretoria tournament."
Zackey and Mansour, who recently qualified for the Kia international amateur mixed doubles event held in conjunction with the Australian Open in Melbourne, were also prominent in the doubles at Groenkloof, with Zackey and Redge Rostron beating Gerhard Bekker and Lance Cohen 6-3 6-2 in the men's doubles final and Mansour and Helga Jeske going down 6-2 6-1 to Zenmarie Pienaar and Francine Schmidt in the women's doubles final.
"It was admirable to see veteran players featuring so prominently and doing well," said Grainger, "but where were the world-class young prospects that used to emerge in South African tennis - and should make their presence felt in a tournament like this?"