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Soweto Open up and running again in 2013
- Updated: October 27, 2012
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula and Tennis South Africa will work together to revive the Soweto Open tournament that will commence in 2013.
The Soweto Open returns to its founding grounds of the South Western Townships, in Jabavu, the venue that that bears the name of its founding father, international ace Arthur Ashe.
The tournament which was launched in 2009 and played successfully until 2011 was dropped from the international calendar this year due to the challenges of international economic meltdown and the global financial crisis. The Ministry of Sport and Recreation South Africa (SRSA) is pleased that Tennis South Africa (TSA) approached department of sport and recreation South Africa with an aim to work towards securing the return of the popular tournament to the grounds of our townships.
SRSA and TSA, then, entered into a partnership towards securing the return of this prestigious and premier event to Soweto in 2013.
The Soweto Men’s Open and Soweto Women’s Open will be played at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Complex in April next year and SRSA together with TSA are pleased to announce that negotiations with the ATP and ITF are at advanced stages for this venture; this will include the actual confirmation of the prize money to be awarded to the winners.
“It is our belief that the Soweto Open in 2013 will attract more spectators than ever before and will continue to expose many young South Africans, developing players and emerging professionals from the disadvantaged and neglected communities whilst at the same time uplifting the standard of living and of tennis in these areas,” said Minister Mbalula.
Already there has been great interest from international players who have confirmed their interest in participating in the tournament which has had champions like Frenchman Fabrice Santoro (2009), flamboyant Jamaican Dustin Brown (2010) and South African Davis Cup star Izak Van Der Merwe (2011). In the women’s competition, top 100 players Anastasija Seastova of Latvia (2009), and Russians Nina Bratchikova (2010) and Valeri Savinykh (2011) are the former champions.
Following his controversial decision to play in the SA Open at Ellis Park in the 1970s, Ashe sponsored the tennis complex in Soweto in order to assist budding young black tennis players. However, over the years the complex has been in decline despite many attempts to revitalise it. Finally, after years of effort, a joint venture between the Tennis South Africa (TSA) and the City of Johannesburg saw Johannesburg’s Community Development Directorate fork out R9-million to refurbish the complex. It has a seating capacity of 1000, with 16 additional courts.
In 2007 Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Arthur’s widow, officially opened the first phase of the renovations.┬á There were eight courts at that stage but for the Soweto events, the newly rebuilt match court in front of the clubhouse was used as the main court. The seating capacity of the temporary stadium was 800 with a further 200 to 300 seats available on the clubhouse pavilion, making a 1300 seat capacity event.
The second phase saw a partnership between the Gauteng Government, City of Joburg and Lotto build an additional eight courts.┬áFive of these courts are being resurfaced for the events, making a total of six courts in use for the tournament.┬á Both tournaments will comprise a 32-player singles draw and a 16-team doubles draw. Both events will be preceded by a qualifying tournament.
ÔÇ£Soweto has been a major part of moulding history in South Africa and to be able to continue bringing top-class tennis to a stadium conceived by a visionary like Arthur Ashe, is a wonderful honour for TSA,” said President of Tennis SA Mr Bongani Zondi.