Newly appointed Fed Cup captain, Rene Plant is on a mission. The former professional player is working hand in hand with Tennis South Africa (TSA) to promote, develop and improve the status of women’s tennis in the country.
On announcing her Fed Cup squad to do national duty in Montenegro from the 16-21 April, Plant said that she had selected a balanced squad to allow South Africa the best chance of gaining promotion into the Euro/Africa Group II of the Fed Cup competition.
Plant announced her squad on Wednesday as follows;
Madrie Le Roux
Minette van Vreden
As per the rules of Fed Cup, Plant will have to nominate a four player team from her squad of five ahead of the commencement of the tournament. These four nominated players will then participate as team South Africa for the entire tournament. Changes may be made to the singles and doubles for each tie.
The team will be playing in the Euro/Africa Group III tournament alongside 20 other countries. The countries have been split into two groups. One group will be playing in Tunisia (10 countries) and the other group in Montenegro (10 countries). The countries at each venue will be drawn into two pools and a round robin will be played within each pool with each tie consisting of two singles and a doubles rubber. The pool winners will then play out for promotion to the Euro/Africa Group II. Two countries will earn promotion, one team from Tunisia and the other from Montenegro.
The Montenegro tournament will be contested by hosts Montenegro as well as South Africa, Andorra, Cameroon, Finland, Ireland, Kenya, Malta, Morocco and Uganda.
Chanel Simmonds, South Africa’s highest ranked women’s player will spearhead the challenge. After suffering injury early last year, Simmonds bounced back strongly towards the end of 2017 enjoying good runs in Senegal and Stellenbosch at the Digicall Futures.
Doubles specialist Madrie Le Roux, like Simmonds is a seasoned Fed Cup campaigner. Le Roux has played 18 ties for the country and won the African Junior doubles championships with fellow countrywomen Ilze Hattingh.
Katie Poluta of Cape Town was one of the most promising junior tennis players in the country, consistently ranked in the top 5 of each age group she played. Poluta took up a scholarship with the University Of Texas and is presently enjoying a stellar run with the Division 1 NCAA team. Poluta will be making her Fed Cup debut.
Minette van Vreden, a South African Masters and National champion has dominated the junior game and like Poluta makes her Fed Cup debut.
Lulu Ntuli is 17 years old and is Cape Town based. Ntuli is one of the brightest prospects in women’s tennis in the country. Born in London Ntuli moved to South Africa with her parents and was based in Pretoria before moving to Cape Town. Ntuli is a provincial player and was selected for the South African High Schools team.
Joining the squad in Montenegro will be Tucker Vorster, the former South African Davis Cup player, who will act as hitting partner and Manager and Karen Frye who will be the team physiotherapist.
The squad will travel early to Montenegro to prepare for the Fed Cup, acclimatising to the conditions and clay court surface.
Plant confirmed that she would be holding a pre-departure doubles camp using former ATP doubles specialist Jeff Coetzee to add value to the doubles games of the selected team. “Doubles is a key part of every Fed Cup tie and we need to leave South Africa knowing that our girls are best prepared for any match winning doubles matches.”
Plant said that that her selection process was based on the “next gen” idea. “We need to start building for the future. It’s no secret that the women’s game in the country in recent years has been challenged. We don’t have any more players in the top 200 of the world and that makes our efforts in Fed Cup difficult. So other than drawing on the experience of Chanel and Madrie, we will need to develop the next generation of players and groom them to assist the country regain its status in women’s tennis.”
The idea Plant has is to draw players from a bigger base being junior, university, senior and professional ranks.
After the Fed Cup in April, Plant together with TSA will hold a Fed Cup camp from 28 June – 1 July at the Bryanston Sports Club in Johannesburg. The aim of the camp is to develop some depth for selection opportunities going forward, to get players to network with each other, to create a bigger base of players to work with and to create energy and enthusiasm amongst all the female players in South Africa. A “next gen’ tournament will be held in conjunction with the camp and this will allow for a few head to head results.