Soweto Open serves ace with good crowds
The international tennis circuit has its big tournaments - the French, the US and the Australian opens. And now Soweto has its very own tennis open.
The R897803 tournament started last week at Jabavu's Arthur Ashe Tennis Complex and ended yesterday.
The complex was built in the 1970s by the late three-time Grand Slam title winner who was the first black man to win Wimbledon and the US Open.
Mabatho Makgale, 9, of Jabavu was excited to watch famous tennis players.
"I am very excited. I used to practise tennis here but stopped because now I have a lot of school work. Seeing a competition like this in Soweto encourages me to make time for tennis again," she said yesterday on the last day of the tournament.
Andreas Madonsela from Meadowlands agrees: "It encourages children in the township to become stars. It's the first time that I have watched a live tennis match. The best part of it was seeing South African Rik de Voest playing."
The tennis tournament achieved its goals of transformation of the sport and to inspire a new crop of tennis players from the township.
Ian Smith of the South African Tennis Association said: "The event was a success. The attendance in the beginning of the week was low but on Saturday and today [Sunday] we had great crowds.
"We have brought the game to the people and now they understand it. We hope that the women's tournament will have an even bigger crowd."
The event will be held annually with the City of Johannesburg sponsoring it for two more years. The Soweto Open is part of the ATP challenger tour, a springboard circuit for up-and-coming players to earn ranking points to enter the world tour, and will be followed by an ITF women's event on April 27.
It is the first ever major international tennis tournament to be held in the township.