Johannesburg, South Africa – Nike Inc. announced today that the global Nike Junior Tour (NJT) which was launched in 1997 will no longer be played around the world.
With a result, South Africa who have been part of the world’s biggest tennis initiative since 1998 will no longer host a local Nike Junior Tour. In 1998, multiple Grand Slam winner Andre Agassi and former world number 3 Amanda Coetzer (patron of the NJT in South Africa) jointly launched the local NJT at the Parow Tennis Club in the Western Cape.
Bruce Davidson, owner of the Nike Junior Tour South African rights, said it was disappointing that Nike had decided to cancel the global tour. “I met with Nike officials in the USA late last year and they confirmed that South Africa, which is one of the 41 countries around the world that participate in the NJT, would no longer be hosting the Nike Junior Tour in the country. This is a major disappointment for local tennis development as the NJT, which catered for under 14 and 12 players, was one of the great success stories of junior tennis in South Africa.”
Davidson said that Nike had decided to restructure their tennis development focus. “Nike have used the NJT as a scouting tool and it was costing a lot of money to run the NJT in 41 countries on five continents. Without being able to do a proper scouting job at each of the 41 events, Nike had decided the NJT was not financially viable. Nike have decided to hold a Nike Junior Tour International Masters each year and they have assured me our South African juniors will be considered for this annual ‘invitation only” event.”
South Africa was the first country outside Europe to be included in the NJT and top players to the likes of Kevin Anderson, Izak van der Merwe, Chanel Simmonds and Wayne Montogomery all participated successfully in the local NJT. Even Australian star, Matthew Ebden was a participant on the local South African NJT before leaving Durban and immigrating with his parents to Australia.
In 2004, South Africa won the coveted NJT team trophy in Nice, France and have been runners-up on four other occasions.
“The world have always recognised our junior talent and the junior structures Tennis South Africa have in place. South Africa were the first NJT country to partner their national tennis association and link the NJT to the existing tournament circuit. The success of this, instead of creating a separate NJT in each country prompted leading tennis nations like Spain, Germany and Australia to follow suite” said Davidson.
World number 1, Rafael Nadal is probably the most famous Nike Junior Tour graduate. Nadal won three of the four possible NJT titles he participated in including the title at Sun City in the year 2000 when South Africa hosted the Nike Junior Tour International Masters there.
Tennis South Africa (TSA) have confirmed that they are busy negotiating with a possible sponsor to replace the Nike Junior Tour in the country.
“The NJT was so incredibly popular and successful it makes sense for TSA to replace it with a similar product and also include the older age groups. TSA are well down the line in arranging this and an official announcement will be made shortly in this regard” said Gavin Crookes, Acting TSA CEO.