The two winners of the SA National tennis tournaments have been rewarded with wild cards into the Soweto Open to be played at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre from 11-16 April.
Nikala Scholtz (Boland) and Natasha Fourouclas (Mpumalanga) won the respective men’s and women’s events and will now line-up against some top international competition. Joining Scholtz in the men’s draw as the other wild cards, which were announced by the South African Tennis Association, are Raven Klaasen, Ruan Ruloefse and Renier Moolman while Channel Simmonds, Lynn Kiro and┬á Madri Le Roux are the three other women’s wild cards.
Klaasen of Cape Town is close to the top of the alternates’ list and should somebody pull out and he get into the draw as a direct acceptance, the wild card will go to Warren Koen. Klaasen is currently ranked 309 and has been competing internationally. He recently attempted to qualify for the Masters Series event in Indian Wells and won his first round match but lost in the second.
Scholtz, who turned 20 in February, will be looking to improve his ranking after reaching a career-high of 581. He qualified for the SA Open at Montecasino but lost in the opening round to Germany’s Denis Gremelmayr 4-6 5-7. In last year’s tournament Scholtz lost to finalist Izak van der Merwe.
Capetonian, Roelofse went down to Scholtz in a third set tie-breaker in the SA Open qualifying tournament but went on to play at a satellite in Turkey where he reached the final. That got his ranking up to 629. The 18-year-old Joburger, Moolman is another of the future hopes for the country and is currently ranked 1186.
Fourouclas is just 17 years old and is ranked at 106 on the ITF junior rankings. She has loads of talent and at last year’s Soweto Open fought well in the opening round before finding the experience of Jarmila Groth too hot to handle.
Left-hander Simmonds of Gauteng East is currently playing off a career-high ranking of 306 and is still just 18 years old. She has been competing at a series of ITF event in the USA and has been playing consistently well. Kiro is an exciting 15-year-old who is currently ranked 338 on the ITF junior rankings. She is from Western Province but based at the ITF Centre in Pretoria.
Le Roux will turn 16 during the Soweto Open. The Pretoria local played the junior ITF tournament in Botswana recently and performed well there. She reached the final of that event, losing to Katy Dunne of Great Britain.
ÔÇ£It is wonderful for us to give our younger players the opportunity to score points in their own country,ÔÇØ said Tournament Director Gavin Crookes. ÔÇ£We have some superb talent coming through and this is a great chance for them to test themselves against some of the world’s higher ranked players.ÔÇØ
The committee has also identified certain South African players who will be awarded wild cards into the qualifying draw because of their current participation in the African Junior Championships in Botswana. However, these will only be confirmed on the ÔÇ£sign-inÔÇØ evening which takes place Friday, 8 April which takes place at the Southern Sun Grayston Hotel.