Earl Grainger, the newly appointed Fed Cup captain is on a clear and dedicated mission to improve the women’s game in South Africa. In what has been a long overdue announcement, Grainger together with Tennis South Africa announced a complete overhaul of the Fed Cup system in the country.
A Fed Cup squad comprising of 15 of the country’s top senior and junior players has been confirmed for 2014 and for the first time in years it includes South Africa’s highest ranked women’s singles player Chani Scheepers. Scheepers last made herself available for Fed Cup duty in 2005.
(Scroll down for the initial list of 12 Fed Cup players announced)
Grainger said that he had long discussions with Scheepers who was very excited by the new plans. “Chani assured me that she is totally committed to South African tennis. We spoke about her not being available for Fed Cup in the past and we discussed the future. Chani wants to help us in every possible way and I was delighted that she agreed to be part of the Fed Cup squad,” said Grainger.
Twelve of the fifteen squad members were announced Monday, and another three players are to added to the squad shortly. The players in the squad were selected according to world rankings and participation on the WTA Tour. Juniors with potential were also considered and players that supported the TSA tournament programme were given added consideration.
Grainger said that he would announce his Fed Cup team on Friday to play in the Euro Africa Group 2 tournament in Lithuania from 16 to 19 April.
“I will be monitoring the players, their progress and their schedules at all times,” said Grainger. “I will also be at all major local and international tournaments to watch the players compete and be on hand at these events to offer them advice.”
Tennis South Africa also confirmed that two consultants would work with Grainger on the Fed Cup project. The consultants were named as seasoned doubles specialist Natalie Grandin, of Durban, and leading coach Allan Karam, of Pretoria. Grandin and Karam would be on-hand not only to advise Grainger, but also to work with the players in the squad.
Karam said that the aim was to build for the future. “Let’s not be fooled, there is plenty of talent in our country. All we need to do is identify players, nurture and develop their skills and look at long term success for our country.
“I am optimistic about this new look Fed Cup project. As long as we give the girls every opportunity available to enable them to progress and develop, this added support will for sure assist them in becoming successful professional players which will in turn be good for our Fed Cup hopes.”
Karam warned that the road ahead would be a big challenge. “It’s not going to be easy but Earl has some really great and positive vision and Natalie and I look forward to the challenge.”
Grandin shares a similar view to Karam, and is feeling positive about her involvement with the project; “I am and have always been happy to help Tennis South Africa.
“I think this is a great idea and I am sure that with all my years of experience playing in the Fed Cup team, and on the pro tour, I will be able to help South Africa move up to Group 1. The team definitely has enough talent to move up and be a strong contender in years to come.”
Free of charge training squads for the players are planned to be held at least four times a year where the players in the squad will be given top class technical, physical and mental training to prepare them for the professional tour.
“Hard dedicated work will enable the girls to earn a place in the squad. My plan is to give the girls something that they have never experienced before and after each squad session I really want the girls to have gained enormously from the technical, physical and mental sessions we will offer them” said Grainger.
But Grainger warned that the girls would have to work hard and win matches to keep their spots in the squad. “I need a hard working bunch of players that are totally committed to their game, to Tennis South Africa and the country as a whole.
“If they are not committed and show signs of poor performance they will stand a chance of losing their spot in the squad,” warned Grainger.
The first squad session will be held from 9 – 12 April at the Bedfordview Tennis Club.
The first-named Members of Earl Grainger’s 15-member Fed Cup Squad:
- Chani Scheepers
- Chanel Simmonds
- Natasha Fourouclas
- Madrie le Roux
- Natalie Grandin
- Ilze Hattingh
- Michelle Sammons
- Lynn Kiro
- Zani Barnard
- Lee Barnard
- Theresa van Zyl
- Janet Koch
Photo Caption: Breaking tennis news is that Chani Scheepers (pictured) is back for Earl Grainger’s Fed Cup squad, for first time in nine years, as the incoming captain shakes up the system, and announces consultants in seasoned doubles specialist Natalie Grandin and leading coach Allan Karam. Photo: Supplied