South African Juniors Ready To Take On The World

Wed, 04/12/2013 - 13:17

You can’t argue with results and the success of the Nike Junior Tour (NJT) can be measured by the performances of its graduates.

This year’s US Open was the ultimate example. Men’s champion Rafael Nadal was a three-time winner of the NJT International Masters while both junior champions – Borna Coric and Ana Konjuh – were more recent victors of the event.

A look at the ITF Junior World rankings is further recognition of the NJT International Masters’ standing. The three boys ranked one, two and three in the world – Alexander Zverev (U14 2009), Borna Coric (U14 winner 2010) and Gianluigi Quinzi (U12 winner 2008) – have all played in the NJT International Masters.

The girls’ rankings reveal a similar pattern. World No 2 Ana Konjuh (winner U14, 2011) and No 3 Barbora Krejcikova (U14, 2010) have contested this event.

From December 8 to 12 the next group of players, representing 36 countries, will descend on Club Med Sandpiper Bay in Florida, USA in their quest for glory at the 17th edition of NJT International Masters.

South Africa will once again be proudly represented at what is arguably the world’s most prestigious junior tennis event.

Team South Africa will be led by Coach Terry Schweitzer, who for is from Gauteng East has had considerable success with touring teams in the younger junior age groups over the past few years. “I’m very excited and honoured to be travelling to the USA as coach of the South African team. To be part of this world renowned event is indeed a privilege. We have a solid South African team that has produced some great tennis throughout the year to earn their deserved places in the Masters.”

The South African team will comprise of two under 12 Free State players Joubert Klopper and Linge Steenkamp plus National champion Richard Thongoana and South African Junior Fed Cup team member Zani Barnard who will represent the country in the under 14 age group.

Two of the international players of note will be the pair who fought out the boys’ under-12 final at last year’s tournament – Rudi Molleker of Germany and Yshai Oliel of Israel. Molleker won that final 7-5 7-5 but both had created a lot of interest.

Former ATP Tour player and South African Davis Cup player Neville Godwin described Molleker as “the full package” as the young German displayed excellent court craft, a wide array of shots and superb athleticism.

The left-handed Israeli had many of the same qualities but his game and mental aptitude needed some refinements to eliminate the rough edges.

He learned well from that loss because Oliel went on to win the Under-12 Orange Bowl. The pair looked set to meet again in the final but Molleker lost a tight match 6-4 in the third set to Colombian Nicolas Mejia.

It is usually difficult for 13-year-olds to play in the Under-14 draw as their older opponents are beginning to strengthen up quite significantly. Under the circumstances both have performed well during the year and they should make their presence felt, despite their age.

Another exciting player is Nicaise Muamba of Canada. This 13-year-old is being hailed as the new Canadian great hope and demonstrated his talent recently by reaching the quarterfinals of an Under-18 ITF tournament in Canada.

Among the girls 14-year-old Alessia Welti of Switzerland looks an exciting prospect. Since August she has been playing in Under-18 tournaments with relative success. Her best performance came in the Dominican Republic in early October. She reached the final of that event but an injury forced her to pull out of the match.

She also made the semi-finals of a tournament in Portugal and the quarters of an event in Switzerland.

American Claire Liu won the girls Under-12 title last year and she has been given a wild card to take her place in the Under-14 draw this year. The 13-year-old has been playing scintillating tennis this year and even booked a place in the US Open Junior draw and went on to win her first round match. In July she won the Under-14 National Clay Court Championship without dropping a set and then beat off Under-18 competition to win a USTA Regional Tournament in California. Most recently Liu made the semi-finals of an Under-18 ITF tournament on hardcourt in Atlanta.

Other players to follow include Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine, Czech Marketa Vondrousova and Spain's Paula Arias.

For the first time live scoring will be introduced and that will enable people connected with any player to follow their progress on

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