South African Fed Cup player Chanel Simmonds has welcomed the addition of top-ranked Chani Scheepers to the team doing duty at the Europe/Africa Zone Group II event in Estonia.
Simmonds is part of a four-strong team bidding to gain promotion to the next level of competition. They’re grouped in Pool A along with hosts Estonia, Egypt and Bosni-Herzegovina.
They won their first tie easily enough on Wednesday, beating Egypt 3-0.
‘This year we’re very fortunate to have Chani [pictured above with Simmonds] playing for us. She has a lot of experience so myself and the other team members can learn a lot from her. We are able to practice with her and of course watch her matches,’ young Simmonds told Road to Rio 2016 as the team prepared for Thursday’s clash with Estonia.
‘I’m personally very happy that I can spend some time around Chani. She has already given me a lot of insight and tips to get my ranking up and the crack the top 100.’
Simmonds also says that Scheepers being part of the team has made it that much easier for herself. ‘Every year I’ve played Fed Cup I’ve been playing as number one. So this time there is a little less pressure on me as playing number two.’
She’s also revelling in the team set-up. ‘It’s always a privilege to play for my country. Being on the tour, you are always alone and don’t always have support, but being in a team cheering you on, it’s so nice because now you actually have people wanting you to win. Where as on tour, very few people want to see you winning.
‘Also having Earl Grainger as the captain is a big positive. I have worked with him for many years and I have done well with him.’
Simmonds also took time out to describe some of the off-court activities and the team’s surroundings. Midday temperature was an icy minus-two degrees Celsius, thankfully the action is taking place indoors.
‘After 24 hours of traveling (Johannesburg to Frankfurt and then onto Estonia) we arrived here. Being South African, I think we can all say that we are not used to snowy weather. At the airport we all look like amateurs compared to the local people who had thick long jackets and coats with scarfs and leather gloves.
‘We went for our first hit the next day on the indoor courts. It definitely took some getting used to as the courts are super fast. In South Africa we don’t have indoor courts.
‘The venue is a big club, with eight courts. One being more of a centre court with some stands for viewers. There’s a big screen that shows the score. Of course Estonia will be playing all their matches on that court.
‘And matches have also been scheduled to be played at four o’clock in the afternoon, which is a lot later than usual but it’s probably to get more crowds in. There’s also a gym, restaurant and pro shop here which is great.’