The South African junior Under-18 team recently dominated the African Junior Championships which ended in the Tunisian capital of Tunis over the weekend.
The most notable win for South Africa came when Zoe Kruger won the Girls Under-18 title upsetting second seed Dia El Jardi of Morocco 4-2 4-2 in the final.
The tournament organisers were forced to change the format to short sets when rain continuously disrupted play in the early rounds of the outdoor hard court championships.
Kruger in the quarter-finals also upset fourth seed Nermeen Shawky of Egypt in straight sets.
Back in October of 2013, renowned Swedish coach Thomas Hogstedt introduced Zoe Kruger and her younger sister Isabella to the South African media in a press conference, saying the Kruger sisters were ‘the most exciting news for world tennis in a long time.’
Hogstedt, who has coached Maria Sharapova, Li Na and Caroline Wozniacki to the pinnacle of their careers, said ‘I saw from the first day I could transform Zoe Kruger into one of the best players in the world.’
Kruger is only 14 years old, so it’s no wonder her win in the older Under-18 African Junior Championship age group has impressed the world.
South Africa won a second title when favourites Bertus Kruger and Richard Thongoana won the boys doubles title. Kruger and Thongoana (a member of Team SA at the AUSC Region 5 Games in Angola late last year) beating fellow South African team mates and second seeds Siphos Montsi and Phillip Henning (he was also in Angola) in the final 1-4 4-1 (10-7).
Two South African boys namely Siphos Montsi and Bertus Kruger reached the boys singles semi-finals.
‘The conditions were extremely tough, said boys team coach Stephan de Kok. ‘We came into a cold wintery Tunisia from hot summer weather in South Africa and it was difficult for the players to adapt. Plus with us playing outdoors we had to brave the cold elements including the rain which caused chaos throughout the tournament. Considering all of this our team excelled.’
South African girls team coach, Earl Grainger agreed with De Kock. ‘It wasn’t easy and at times we were playing until midnight in these rough conditions. But our opponents also faced the challenges, it’s just that we South African’s in most cases managed to get on top of the conditions better than the other.’
Grainger gave full praise to Kruger. ‘Zoe is an extremely very talented player and the way she strikes the ball and constructs her points during matches at her age is so impressive. This is just the start and I see Zoe making some big waves in the women’s game as she matures and grows older.’
The strong performances by the South African players enabled the team to earn enough points to be named best performing team of the Championships.
Picture of Kruger courtesy of Tennis South Africa