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- Team SA leads the way at Region 5 Games opening ceremony
- Stapleton flies flag for SA in India
- Judoka ready to get to grips for Team SA
- SA’s six Games boxers ready to take to the ring
- SA duo up for prestigious world awards
- SA youngsters aim for a repeat of 2014
- Health issues as South Africa play catch-up in India
- Team SA head off to Angola on Region 5 Games mission
Region 5 champion Katie embraces the Aussie Open experience
- Updated: January 27, 2015
South Africa’s African Union Region 5 Games singles champion Katie Poluta is picking up valuable tennis experience Down Under, writes Mark Etheridge.
The little Capetonian won both her matches in the Australian Open junior qualifying tournament. Seeded 11th she beat Mexican Daniela Morales Beckmann in three sets and then beat the fourth seed from China, Yanni Liu to seal her spot in the main draw.
In the main draw she went out in the first round to India’s Pranjala Yadlapalli, losing 6-4 6-3.
But she’s still in the doubles draw and her and Indonesian partner Delia Nur Haliza beat the French/US combination of Fiona Ferro and Olivia Hauger in two sets, 6-3 7-6 (1).
Before the Aussie junior qualifying she also won both her matches at the Traralgon pre-tournament event.
Says the Parklands teenager of her experience in Melbourne. ‘I played very well in qualifying and couldn’t believe that I’d qualified to play the Aussie Open, a dream come true.
‘Arriving at Melbourne Park for the first time was quite an experience. The whole place is buzzing and being a junior competitor means that I’m able to access certain areas where the pros are and see what they do behind the scenes. I’m still getting used to having Rafa [Nadal] pass me by in the passage without freaking out!
‘This has by far been the best experience of my tennis career and I look forward to playing many more grand slams in the future. Now that I know the ropes, I can see what to aim for and have a much clearer goal in mind.’
Right now she’s just lapping up the entire experience and digesting it. ‘I’ve been able to watch many of the players practice and was lucky enough to watch [Novak] Djokovic play [Fernando] Verdasco on the beautiful Rod Laver Arena. I was also lucky enough to meet Cara Black of Zimbabwe after watching her play a great game of mixed doubles.’
Poluta hasn’t had the luxury of her own coach being with her in Australia but in the form of ex-Davis Cup player Jeff Coetzee she’s got an invaluable support base.
‘Its been great to have someone like Jeff around as he’s here with some of his players on the Pro Tour but has kindly helped me with training and managed to watch my matches. I unfortunately lost my first round singles match but I can’t say that I didn’t learn from that as it was a great experience getting used to the exclusive treatment that players receive at these grand slams.
‘There is a first time for everything and I’m glad to have gotten my first Grand Slam match out of the way as it’s quite a different experience playing at such a prestigious event.
‘It was a great feeling to win my first doubles match here and I’m so thankful for all the support and well wishes from friends and family back in South Africa. Playing in the Australian Open and winning my first Grand Slam match meant a lot to me and its been great learning how the top players in the world train and to learn more about them on and off the court. I look forward to many more wonderful opportunities like this in years to come!’
Next up for Poluta and Nur Haliza is a tough match against second seeded Czechs Miriam Kolodziejova and Marketa Vondrousova in the second round of the doubles.