Despite the early exits of Kevin Anderson and Raven Klaasen at the Australian Open last week, the South African flag is still flying high at the first Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne.
In the Boys Junior Australian Open, Philip Henning of Bloemfontein won through to round three of the junior Grand Slam on Tuesday.
Henning was part of Team South Africa at the AUSC Region 5 Games (U20) in Luanda, Angola late in 2016.
Henning, a Grey College learner, upset ninth seed and world No8, Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil 6-4 6-4 in the second round
In the opening round, Henning he had beaten George Loffhagen of Great Britain in a tight two-setter 7-6 (5) 7-5.
It’s been a fabulous tour ‘Down Under’ for the 17-year-old Free Stater. He qualified for the pre Australian Open warm up junior tournament, Traralgon Junior International where he went on to beat Nicolas Mejia of Colombia, ranked ninth in the junior world rankings, 6-0 6-2 in the main draw.
Henning did not make the final cut of the Australian Open Junior main draw so was forced to play in the qualifying rounds. He won through two gruelling rounds of qualifying and was one of eight players to qualify for the main draw proper in Melbourne.
‘I can’t believe that I’m into the third round of the Aussie Open Junior,’ said a clearly elated Henning following his victory. ‘It’s always been a dream to play in a Grand Slam and that dream is now a reality. I hope to continue my good form for the rest of the week.’
Allan Karam, the Tennis South Africa (TSA) national coach travelling with Henning said that Henning played aggressive from the baseline. ‘Phillip is really playing well and his aggressiveness is working well on the hard courts here in Melbourne.
‘Today his returning game was on point and a key to his win as his opponent had a big serve. The few opportunities thrown at Philip by Seyboth Wild, Philip capitalised on and this gave him the advantage throughout the match. Philip also served well, never lost serve the entire match and used his all-round athletic ability to cover the court.’
In Wednesday’s third round, Henning will play American, Sebastian Korda. The two have never played each other before.
Henning is also still in the boys doubles with partner Andrew Paulson of the Czech Republic. The two upset top seeds, Sebastian Baez (Argentina) and Brazil’s Wild 2-6 7-6 (5) 14-12 to move into the quarter-finals.
The only other South African participating the Australian Open Juniors is Myah Petchey of Cape Town who lost final round qualifying, was given a lucky loser spot into the main draw but lost in round one to American, Nicole Mossmer.
Watching Henning from the side-lines were two former South African greats, Wayne Ferreira and Jeff Coetzee who both were impressed by Henning.
Coetzee, who was recently announced by TSA as one of their high performance coaches said that Henning was a real talent and his mental game was his real strength. ‘Philip is one of the best junior players South Africa has produced in a while.
‘He has dominated back home and is now doing well on the international stage having beaten the world’s number eight, nine and 24th-ranked juniors. The exciting thing is that there is so much Philip can still improve on. He can still be more aggressive on the short ball, improve his net game and movement which will make him a more complete player and enable him to compete with the very best in the world’ said Coetzee.