Team SA’s Chanel Simmonds celebrates her 27th birthday today (10 August) and she does so as the country’s sole tennis player competing at the upcoming African Games. Happy birthday from all of South Africa, Chanel!
Simmonds, who started playing the sport at the age of nine and who has been playing professionally for a decade, is Team SA’s only tennis player in Morocco for the Games and she’ll be looking to go deep into the women’s singles draw. In 2011 she returned from the African Games in Maputo with a silver medal and is keen to turn silver into gold this time round.
Gary Lemke, Team SA’s media representative at the African Games in Morocco, caught up with her and asked her a few questions.
Who are your role model(s) in the sport?
I’ve never really had a big role model that I looked up to growing up. Although do try and base my game around Angelique Kerber who is a left-handed German player. I am left-handed so I try to mould my game to hers.
Explain what it means to represent your country in an international event.
It’s so exciting to represent South Africa at an international event such as the African Games. Tennis is an individual sport so I’m always playing for myself. So being part of a team, wearing the South African colours and playing for something bigger makes it extra special.
How do you prepare for a match in the ready room?
I always make sure I’m properly warmed up before my matches. I go to a space on my own away from people and visualize how I want to play while I do some jogging and dynamic stretches.
What is your most memorable personal tennis moment?
This is a funny one! I was playing World Team Tennis in America and I was playing against Venus Williams. I remember so clearly hitting a second serve with so much slice and spin on the ball that she completely missed the return! It’s not often in tennis to serve an ace on a second serve so that’s definitely an unforgettable moment.
What is your most memorable other sporting moment?
At an inter school athletic meeting, I was the reserve for the 100m sprint for my school. One of my teammates got sick so I took her spot. I surprised everyone (including myself) and ended up coming first against all the other schools!
In terms of your travels, what has been your favourite country and why?
I really enjoy Thailand. The food is really good and Iv been to a few animal sanctuaries where I’ve interacted with tigers and elephants.
What is the favourite app that you have on your phone?
Spotify! I love my music and listening to all the latest songs on the pop charts.
If you weren’t a tennis player what would you be?
I love animals so if I wasn’t a professional tennis player I would have gone into animal rehabilitation and rescue.
What are your sporting ambitions for the next two years?
I want to improve my ranking to the top 100 so that I can play in the main events of the Grand Slams (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open) and also aim to represent Team South Africa in the 2020 Olympics.. And , also to be injury free
Which person has had the most influence on your career?
My father, who was a Springbok short track speed skater. He has always supported and believed in me when I started tennis. He is positive and always picks me up when I have a bad match.