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Tennis youngsters courting success at Region 5 Games

Katie Poluta 2

By Mark Etheridge

Team South Africa’s Region 5 Games medal hopes in the tennis code will be serviced by four young players in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe next month.
Two boys (Francois Kellerman, Musa Mpondi) and two girls (Katie Poluta, Caitlin Herb) will take to the courts of these Under-20 Games.
Cape Town based Kellerman won the boys’ singles title at the 2014 nationals and he’s currently ranked third in the Tennis South Africa (TSA) national open rankings.
Him and twin brother Okkie recently played three junior International Tennis Federation (ITF) events in Thailand, winning one title and reaching the finals in the other two. Could this be South Africa’s version of the famous US tennis twins Bob and Mike Bryan?
Mpondi, exactly a month older than Kellerman, hails from KwaZulu-Natal and had the KSN Dunlop Mini 2 singles and doubles titles under his belt this year.
As for the girls going to Bulawayo, Poluta (pictured above) is the current national Under-18 singles and doubles champion (and was U16 champion in both categories the previous year) and has been logging up the kilometres as she gains experience on court.
‘Also this year I went to Namibia to compete in two ITF tournaments, I won my first singles ITF title there and won both the doubles titles. In the beginning of August I went to Zimbabwe to play some ITF’s. I won the first ITF singles title and lost in the finals in both singles and doubles of the second grade 3 ITF in ZIm,’ she told Road to Rio 2016.
‘I then went to Mauritius to play another two ITF’s where I won the singles and doubles titles of the first grade 4, and in the second grade 5 ITF I won the doubles title and lost in the semis of singles.
‘I won the SA U18 Masters in October, which was held in Bloemfontein this year.’
LIke Kellerman, Poluta is also based in Cape Town and is embracing the Games opportunity. ‘I’m really pleased with my selection for the Region 5 Games. It sounds like it will be a great experience for myself and the rest of the team.
‘Its always great when you can meet other people from different parts of the world and learn how they do things. I’m sure this opportunity will be beneficial to my tennis and will help me grow into a more experienced player on and off the court.’
Poluta’s team-member Herb is based in Gauteng and turned 18 earlier this month. She’s currently ranked eight in the Under-18 rankings.
‘I started playing tennis seriously when I was 14 and have been training at the JL Tennis academy in Midstream with head coaches John-Laffnie de Jager and Denton Meintjes since January.
‘I started playing ITF’s at age 15 but due to funding restrictions have not been able to travel so have only been able to play the local ITF’s. My ITF ranking is 1111. I’ve only played a couple of local WTA tournaments and in July I played the three Sun City futures where I got my WTA ranking (1182). I was extremely happy about that because eventually I want to travel full time on the circuit.
‘In January if all goes well I am going to college in the States to make it easier to get exposure internationally.’
This will be Herb’s first time representing Team South Africa.
‘Last year I played for SA Schools in the UK but other than that have never played for Team South Africa. I was ecstatic when I found out I was chosen to represent South Africa at the Games.
‘Participating in the Games will give me much-needed experience and exposure. Hopefully participating will lead to other opportunities to represent South Africa in the future. It is a huge honour to be part of Team South Africa and I hope to do them proud.’
The Region 5 Games start on 5 December and continue through till 14 December.
South Africa will be up against  fellow southern African countries Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mauritius.


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