The inaugural Pro Kennex International Premier Challenge is underway at Selborne Park, where 130 national and internal tennis players will duke it out for the top prize.
The five-day tournament aims to contribute to the promotion and development of the sport in the province.
KM Sports founder and tournament organiser Khayalethu Majeke said the tournament was being held in partnership with the department of sport recreation, arts & culture (Dsrac) and Buffalo City Metro Municipality (BCM).
“I am happy the best of the best in the country, including top seeded players are part of the tournament.
“This will also boost sports tourism in the region, while playing on the refurbrished Selborne Park,” Majeke said.
National tennis players participating include highest ranked SA female player Chanel Simmonds, Vaughn Hunter, Chrisjan Van Wyk, Delien Kleinhans and local tennis veteran Claude Moonieyan.
Two former Hudson Park High School tennis aces, Kwanda Mbalekwa and Sisipho Ndlabhu, will also compete.
Mbalekwa said:“I love the sport and have been playing from a young age.
“It has its ups and downs as it is an expensive sport and I have not participated in some tournaments due to funding.”
Despite the challenges, Mbalekwa has secured a scholarship to attend Jones County College in Mississippi in the US and aspires to be a professional player.
Ndlabhu said: “P laying tennis is a family thing for me as my father and brother play. I
started at pre-school age and did not know any other sport until I got to school.”
Ndlabhu, a Nelson Mandela University student, has been selected to the SA squad and hopes to be part of the final selection who will play in Lesotho later in 2020.
Dsrac MEC Fezeka Bayeni said tennis was a minority sport but despite challenges, the department aimed to take it into the rural areas to unearth talent.
“Infrastructure is also needed and we are working together with BCM through the municipal infrastructure grant.”
Tennis EC president Neil Naidoo said there were also a lack of black coaches and the aim was to promote the sport at a development centre in Mdantsane.
The prize money totals R120,000 and includes R20,000 for both the men’s and women’s winners, and a R7,000 hamper from Pro Kennex.