11 June 2009
The South African Tennis Association has received a welcome boost, with the signing of a three-year, R8-million sponsorship deal with medical scheme Keyhealth.
The money will be geared towards Davis Cup, junior tennis, and development. Earlier this year, KeyHealth partnered with the South African Tennis Association (Sata) in the SA Open and Davis Cup ties.
“This is an absolute win for tennis in South Africa,” Sata chief executive Ian Smith said in a statement this week. “To have KeyHealth as a partner in the resurrection of the sport locally is what SA tennis has been lacking for some time.”
‘A growing sport’
KeyHealth marketing chairman Peter Sharman explained: “Tennis is a growing sport in South Africa, and we were fortunate to make contact with SA Tennis some 12 months ago and provide them with a small sponsorship to assist them in their efforts to promote tennis throughout the country.
“The board of KeyHealth then took the decision to become more involved, especially as there was a need to promote tennis to the underprivileged and provide them with a healthy sporting opportunity on an individual basis,” Sharman said.
“Through this initiative we hope to create primary healthcare awareness and a healthy lifestyle for all who are involved, and through the publicity it generates we will bring that awareness to the masses.”
Improvement and expansion
In recent years South African tennis has shown encouraging signs of improvement and expansion.
The South African Open was revived in 2007 after the country had last hosted an ATP event in 1994. The tournament that year was a challenger event, but in 2009 it enjoyed full ATP Tour status and drew a quality field.
Also this year, two challenger tournaments, for men and women, were held at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Complex in Soweto, Johannesburg. It was the first time that world class tennis had been taken to the world famous township.
In September, South Africa will face India at home for a place in the World Group of the Davis Cup, the highest level of the international competition. This comes on the back of 10 successive wins in the event since 2006.
At the junior level, Chanel Simmonds recently made it to the quarterfinals of the girls’ French Open.
Clearly, the trend is up for South African tennis, and a healthy sponsorship will no doubt help stimulate the sport and expand it throughout the country.
SAinfo reporter and South African Tennis Association
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