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Tennis | SA Tennis

Ian Smith © Gallo Images

Tennis is growing in Soweto - Smith



Tennis SA (TSA) is satisfied with the organisation of the rejuvenated Soweto Open, as well as the turnout from local supporters in the women's event at the weekend, according to CEO Ian Smith.

"I think it's been wonderful to see South African tennis growing as it is, especially in Soweto," Smith said.

"We've had wonderful crowds this week and we saw them go mad for the South African runner-up Chanel Simmonds, so overall it has been a wonderful tournament."

The Soweto Open, cancelled last season because of a lack of funds, was saved by the Department of Sport and Recreation, which sponsored this year's event.

Smith was delighted with the way the tournament unfolded, with the men and women playing over successive weeks at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre.

While support trickled in throughout the fortnight, the final match on Saturday attracted a lively crowd, with locals rallying behind Simmonds, who made history as the first South African to reach the final of the women's tournament.

After dominating the courts throughout the week, Simmonds fell 7-6 (3), 4-6, 1-6 to Hungarian Timea Babos, the top seed at the ITF Women's Circuit event.

Canadian Vasek Pospisil won the men's ATP Challenger Tour event a week earlier after his opponent in the final, Michal Przysiezny, retired hurt in the deciding third set.

"We are looking to now grow this event in the future and, hopefully, more children and adults in Soweto will start playing tennis," Smith said.

"The more we have events like this, people will understand that tennis is a sport for life and it's a wonderful family game."

Smith said TSA would approach government and sponsors in an attempt to increase the prize money and attract better quality players.

"Everyone wants to see the No 1 players in the world," he said.

"I don't think you'll see Serena and Venus (Williams) or a (Rafael) Nadal for a long time, but I think the type of player we can get with higher prize money will take the event up a notch or two."

Makhosonke Ngubeni, a Jabavu resident, said he was thrilled to have the tournament taking place in his home town.

"This was a wonderful experience for us here in Soweto," said Ngubeni.

"You usually see top stars playing on television and to watch them live made me really happy.

"Tournaments like this one can motivate the young kids to also dream of becoming a tennis player and focus on positive things instead of looking to a life of crime."

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