SA Tennis Open returns Written by Lynley Main 21 January 2011

The SA Tennis Open is heading back to Johannesburg at the end of the month, with some top international players in the competition.

JANUARY is a sporting month in Joburg, with international tennis players on court alongside local stars for the SA Tennis Open.

The tennis, running from 29 January to 6 February, comes just after the Joburg Open golf tournament, again featuring national and international professionals. Montecasino will host the SA Tennis Open for the third time.

Last year’s winner, Feliciano Lopez of Spain, will be returning to defend his title. Lopez is currently ranked 32 in the world and is set to be the top-seeded player at the tournament, but he will face some stiff competition. Jeremy Chardy of France, ranked 45, will be playing with intent after an injury forced him to withdraw from 2010’s competition.

Yen-Hsun Lu, from Chinese Taipei, will also be giving Lopez a run for his money. He flew through the rankings, going from number 98 to 35 in one season; his biggest performance was at Wimbledon last year, where he progressed to the quarterfinals and beat Andy Roddick, who is seeded eighth in the world.

International players aren’t the only ones to watch for, though, as South African players will be doing their country proud. Kevin Anderson, ranked 56 after progressing to the semifinals in the Brisbane International this past weekend but ultimately losing to Roddick, will be competing as South Africa’s best player.

Wild cards have been given to South Africa’s other highest-ranked players, Izak van der Merwe, Rik de Voest and Fritz Wolmarans, who will also be competing. Van der Merwe is ranked 177, De Voest 179 and Wolmarans 271.

“These players will serve South Africa in front of their own people,” said South African Tennis Association (Sata) chief executive, Ian Smith. “It’s very good that they will be getting exposure as they hardly ever get wild cards into international tournaments. I would love to see a South African winner, but there is a formidable field so we will see some exciting tennis being played.”

An important aspect of the tournament was development of the game. “A highlight will definitely be bringing tennis to the people,” he said. As part of this initiative, two coaching clinics will be held during the tournament, the first at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Jabavu, Soweto on 1 February and the second on site at Montecasino on 4 February.

The clinics will be conducted by selected players who will be competing in the tournament, and will encourage and inspire youth who are interested in the game.

The SA Tennis Open is part of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) World Tour and has been hosted at Montecasino since 2009, when it returned to Joburg after a 13-year hiatus caused by lack of sponsorship. Sponsors are the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, the core sponsor, South African Airways, Sata, Montecasino, Corona Extra, the Department of Sport and Recreation and Jacaranda FM.

The qualifiers take place on 29 and 30 January, and entrance to these matches is free. Tickets for matches between 31 January and 6 February range from R25 to R200 and can be bought from Computicket or the Montecasino box office.

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From www.joburg.org.za