Thomas Högstedt, the well-known coach of Maria Sharapova, will be visiting South Africa in November to assist Tennis South Africa with talent identification, and will be conducting specialized camp for top SA juniors, at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport during November. Photo: SuppliedTennis South Africa (TSA) is taking a significant step forward in the search for the country’s next group of tennis superstars.

Four-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova’s coach Thomas Högstedt, regarded as one of the best coaches in the world, will be the guest of TSA and industry giants Remgro and will conduct a specialised training camp in Stellenbosch for Under-12 and Under-14 girls, from November 6 to 11.

TSA will invite some of the best Under-12 and Under-14 girls to attend the camp.

As a player, Högstedt won the Junior Boys title at the 1981 US Open and during his playing career had victories over fellow Swede Mats Wilander, French Open champion Andres Gomez and Swiss player Jacob Hlasek, a regular visitor to South Africa his career.

Högstedt coached has also coached China’s Li Na, a former French Open winner, with great success and has been coaching Sharapova since 2010.

“I am looking forward to seeing and training some of the most talented girls in South Africa and hopefully find the next Sharapova, Li Na or Wozniacki,” said Högstedt.

“I’ve been coaching many star players from around the world but never from South Africa. So I can’t wait to start practising with them, and maybe we can find South Africa’s next top-10 players to replace the likes of Amanda Coetzer.

“I am very thankful to TSA chief executive Ian Smith for giving me this chance.” It was Smith who was instrumental in setting up Högstedt’s visit, and the project came to fruition thanks to a partnership between TSA and Remgro. The clinics will all be staged at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport (SAS).

Joining Högstedt will be Richard Sutton, a top South African trainer, who will deal with physical conditioning, flexibility, broader physical development, science model for flexibility of players, speed agility and proper warm up protocols.

Sutton has worked with the Chinese Olympic Committee and is a big part of the success of the Chinese Olympic team. He also helped Li Na come though her injury. He was working with her when she won the French Open.

Högstedt and Sutton will have an evening “Question and Answer” session at SAS, which will be open to all TSA registered coaches who are also invited to observe the clinic. Only TSA-registered coaches will be allowed free access to the session. Non-registered coaches can attend for a fee of R3000.

“We have seen over the years that it is important to identify players with ability early in their careers so one can start to work with them as soon as possible,” said Smith. “All too often they slip through the cracks and by the time one realises what has happened, it is all too late.

“With the ability of Thomas and Richard to recognise talent, as well as the specific athletic prerequisites required, we can hopefully build on creating a pool of skilful players.”