Tennis South Africa (TSA) chief executive Richard Glover has extended an olive branch to Kevin Anderson by admitting the organisation didn’t do enough to support him earlier in his career.
Anderson‚ 31‚ on Sunday became the first South African in the open era to play in a grand slam singles final‚ at the US Open in New York.
World No 1 Rafa Nadal won the match 6-3 6-3 6-4 to claim his 16th grand slam title.
But it was Anderson’s road to the final that captured SA’s imagination and led to some introspection at TSA.
Glover has only recently taken up the position of CEO‚ and one of his priorities is to entice Anderson to reconsider his self-imposed Davis Cup absence‚ which has stretched to six years now.
By admitting some TSA faults‚ he is sending a positive message of reconciliation to Anderson.
“I only joined TSA towards the end of last year‚ so I have little in the way of first-hand experience of what has happened historically between Kevin and TSA‚” Glover said.
“However‚ after having spoken to Kevin‚ his mother‚ as well as several TSA stalwarts‚ who have been in the system for years‚ I have come to conclusion that – while our Federation has supported Kevin more than most people realise‚ on balance we have not supported him enough.
“In short‚ both he and his family have made huge sacrifices to get him to where he is today.
“This is their triumph – not ours.
“Indeed‚ the reality is that Kevin has long since passed through our tennis structures and he doesn’t need assistance from TSA any more – but we need him.”
That last point is a valid one because with Anderson’s recent success at Flushing Meadows having raised the sport’s profile‚ TSA could use the new world No 15 to help grow the sport.
It’s something Anderson said he wanted to do during his run to the final.
“I’ve had a lot of support from back home and my biggest hope is that I’m able to inspire some kids to play tennis‚” Anderson said.
“It’s tough coming from South Africa‚ where we are so far from the scene‚ so it makes me feel good that I can fly the flag and show them that if you work hard you can get here.”
Glover admitted that he was using Anderson’s sometimes fraught relationship with TSA to make sure the same mistakes aren’t repeated as they try to capitalise on the new interest in the sport.
“TSA is learning from the past to ensure that the next generation of Kevin Anderson’s (and their female equivalents)‚ who are inspired by this wonderful story‚ are provided the necessary support structures to get into the game‚ grow in the game and stay in the game for life‚” Glover said.
“TSA has a new eight-year plan to grow our sport in SA and while we are in the early stages of executing this plan‚ there is a lot of positive energy and signs of progress.
“To be honest‚ TSA would be better prepared to leverage on Kevin’s performances in 12 months-time‚ rather than now‚ but we are not complaining.
“Kevin’s success at the US Open could prove to be rocket fuel for our sport‚ it is now up to TSA to finish re-building that rocket.
“Thank you Kevin. Thank you for all you have done and all you are doing for tennis in South Africa.” – TimesLIVE