Tourney exposes township kids to world-class tennis
By Khuthala Nandipha
The inaugural Pro Kennex International Premier Tennis Challenge held at the Selbourne Park in East London recently featured youngsters from at least five townships from the province, namely Mdantsane, New Brighton, Motherwell, Zwide and Fort Beaufort.
This was an intentional decision by the Department Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation’s MEC, Fezeka Bayeni and tournament organiser, East Londoner Khaya Majeke of KM Sports, a sports consultancy.
“What was imperative for us what to make sure that the event has a legacy. We had children as young as eight from various earmarked townships. We waved the entry fee for them and paid for their accommodation to ensure accessibility, affordability and exposure,” enthused Majeke.
The five-day international event had 133 participating players from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Lesotho playing under five age-group categories; boys, girls, men and women - under 10, 12, 14, 16 and Open.
The tournament referee, David Kempele who is also the Eastern Cape team coach officiated alongside Siyabonga Masha and other coaches in junior sectors in order to assess the standard of tennis in the province, especially that of developing township players.
“The tournament is part of the Department’s Sports Tourism programme. Of all the sites visited all over the country, East London turned out to have the best-designed facilities, an unmatched centre court of an international standard; hence it was chosen as the host city,” said Majeke.
South Africa’s number one Chanel Simmonds and Alec Beckley were the first-ever champions in the men and women’s singles titles of the Challenge held over four days in Southernwood. In attendance were parents who travelled from all the country, MEC for Sports Fezeka Bayeni who played and won a match; Gideon Sam, former president of the Olympic committee, Portfolio Head for Special Programmes in the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality Cllr Xolani Witbooi and Neil Naidoo, the Eastern Cape Tennis President.
Asenathi Botile (13) from Fort Beaufort was accompanied by her parents Nolufuzo and Simphiwe Botile. Asenathi inherited the love of tennis from her mother and has been playing for four years.
“I hope she does not stop playing as she grows older because she is good. This is only her third tournament outside school. I believe she can have a career in sport; she can do Sports Administration or be a competitive player. What I love about the sport at the moment is that it helps her to focus at school as she is more relaxed and disciplined; skills that she has acquired from the tennis court,” said Nolufuzo.
The children were exposed to the best talent when Simmonds returned to the court shortly after her singles win with Sinazo Solani of Boland. The top seeds topped Kleinhans and Gauteng Central’s Sarah Millard 6-4, 6-1 to bag the doubles title.
In the men’s open event, seventh-seeded Alec Beckley of Johannesburg squared off with Jody Claassen in one of the breath-taking matches of the day. Beckley took the match in an epic 7-6(6), 6-3.
 Stefan Stieger (BOL) def.  Nhlakanipho Ngwenya (GC) 6-2, 6-1
 Johan Coetzee (EP) def.  Cuan Western (EDEN) 6-2, 6-2
 Lwazi Ngwenya (GC) def.  Francois Van Wyk (GN) 2-6, 6-3, 6-2
 Alec Beckley (GC) Def. Jody Claassen (WP) 7-6(6), 6-3
 Rune Van Wyk (GC) Def.  Lisa-Marie Du Toit (WP) 6-1, 6-4
 Lilitha Ndungane (GE) Def.  Annika Kleinhans (EP) 6-1, 6-0
 Chanel Simmonds (GE) Def.  Delien Kleinhans (FS) 6-0, 6-1
 Cooper WESTERN (BOL)/ Stefan STIEGER (BOL) def. 1-Albert Liebenberg (GC)/ Nhlakanipho Ngwenya (GC) 7-6, 6-4
 Moeketsi Mokete (GC)/ Johan Coetzee (GC) Def.  Cuan Western (WP)/ Luke Bosman (WP) 6-3, 6-4
1-Lwazi Ngwenya (GC)/ Franswillem Van Der Merwe (GC) Def. 2-Cornel Liebenberg (EP)/ Brandon Rieseberg (EP) 6-4, 6-4
 Lance-Pierre Du Toit (BOL) / Pierre Malan (WP) Def.  Vasilios Caripi (GE) / Vaughn Hunter (GC) 6-4, 7-6(6)
 Rune Van Wyk (GC) / Lisa-Marie Du Toit (WP) Def.  Zané Volschenk (FS) / Milla Kotze (WP) 6-1, 6-4
 Sinazo Solani (BOL) / Chanel Simmonds (GE) Def.  Delien Kleinhans (FS) / Sarah Millard (GC) 6-4, 6-1