Tennis SA names national team captains

21 February 2014

Tennis South Africa (TSA) on Friday named John-Laffnie de Jager its Davis Cup captain and Earl Grainger its Fed Cup skipper. Previously De Jager had held both positions.

Acting CEO of TSA, Gavin Crookes explained in a statement: “The TSA Board decided that two captains needed to be appointed. TSA is of the firm opinion that the Davis Cup and Fed Cup captain’s roles should be specifically focused on the men’s and ladies ‘ team events respectively. This gave TSA the opportunity to appoint captains who specialise in the men’s and women’s game.”

Both De Jager and Grainger have been contracted for 2014 and 2015.

De Jager’s record

De Jager was first appointed Davis Cup captain in September 2005 when South Africa travelled to Casablanca to play against Morocco. South Africa lost that tie 1-4 but in his four terms as Davis Cup captain he has managed to get South Africa to four World Group play-off ties vs India (2009), Germany (2010), Croatia (2011) and Canada (2012).

South Africa, ranked 32nd in the Davis Cup rankings, last played in the World Group in 1998. De Jager’s aim is to get South Africa back into the top 20 of world tennis nations.

Under his captaincy South Africa were relegated to Euro Africa Zone Group II this year, but had an impressive 3-2 home tie win against Monaco earlier this month at the Irene Country Club in Tshwane. In round two, South Africa will play against Lithuania at the same venue from 4 to 6 April.

The next generation

De Jager said he was excited to establish the next generation of South African tennis stars. “We certainly have the young guns available to make it into the World Group. I have introduced them as part of the squad over the past two years and they have and will continue to grow in the great environment we create during the Davis Cup weeks,” he stated.

A regular traveller on the international circuit, De Jager said he was looking forward to sharing what he has witnessed at the top tennis tournaments he has attended with the South African Davis Cup team. “I feel this gives players access to information and developments they don’t necessarily have access to at their current level,” he said.

First-timer

It will be the first time Bedfordview-based Earl Grainger takes on the role of Fed Cup captain.

As a junior, he was ranked in the top five in South Africa and represented the country at the Orange Bowl and Rolex International in the USA. He was also was the youngest player to represent South Africa at the Maccabi Games and enjoyed four successful years on an NCAA scholarship at the University of Tennessee.

Today, Grainger is one of the most successful tennis coaches in the country. His Earl Grainger Tennis Academy in Gauteng Central has worked with top talents, including Davis Cup players Dean O’Brien and Ruan Roelofse and Fed Cup players Chanel Simmonds and Natasha Fourocalas.

Biggest success story

Grainger’s biggest success story is undoubtedly Simmonds, who he has helped develop from a top junior player to South Africa’s number two world ranked female player, with a career high of 158 on the WTA rankings. For the past seven years, he has travelled with Simmonds on the international circuit.

Grainger said he was honoured to be appointed captain of the Fed Cup team and added that he saw the appointment as a reward for his hard work and dedication.

‘Very, very proud’

“It’s true, good things come to people who work hard, have loyalty and are honest. Quite honestly, the appointment came as a shock to me. I am very, very proud and very thankful to be given this wonderful opportunity to captain the Fed cup side,” he commented.

The South African Fed Cup team will travel to Siauliai, Lithuania from 16 to 19 April 2014 where they will compete in Europe/Africa Zone Group II for the third successive year following their promotion from Group III in 2011.

South Africa is currently ranked 52 on the world Fed Cup rankings.

SAinfo reporter