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Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open... Soweto Open?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Phillip Muhlwa of Zimbabwe slams a shot against Justin Bower (not pictured) during the Soweto Tennis Open Qualifying Tournament in Soweto on April 11, 2009 at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Complex.

Could the big four international grand slams someday become the big five? The Soweto Open in South Africa certainly would like to make that happen. The famous township, a symbol of the anti-apartheid fight where Nelson Mandela lived, has started its own.

Hopefuls Get Chance To Play In Soweto Open

The South African Tennis Association (Sata) has announced a pre-qualifying tournament for the upcoming Soweto Open men's and women's events for players from previously disadvantaged communities.

The tournament will be played at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Complex in Jabavu, Soweto, from April 3-5. Finalists will earn wildcard spots in the qualifying draw of the Open with the losing semi-finalists playing out for third and fourth place.

Following his controversial decision to play in the SA Open at Ellis Park in the 1970's, the legendary Arthur Ashe sponsored the tennis complex in Soweto in order to assist budding young black tennis players.

Sata chief executive Ian Smith said: "This is one way of making sure that the late Arthur's dream becomes a reality. We are calling out to all those interested to register for the event.

Selection will be in accordance with current national rankings
"One of the South African Tennis Association's main objectives is to develop tennis players in communities that were previously disadvantaged"

To participate, players must be 14 or older. Selection will be in accordance with current national rankings in open and age categories. A R10 fee is payable at the registration desk at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Complex between 8am and 9am on Friday.

The Soweto Open will be the first major international tennis tournament to be staged in South Africa's most populous and renowned township.

For more information on the pre-qualifying tournament contact the South African Tennis Association on 011-442-0500 during office hours.

Soweto Deals Four Wildcards

Three South African tennis players and a Frenchman have been given wildcards into the Soweto Open beginning at the Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday.

Fabrice Santoro, who was forced to withdraw from the recent SA Open at Montecasino for personal reasons, was keen to make up for that by playing in this event.

However, according to ATP World Tour regulations, a player ranked in the top 50 may not enter directly into a Challenger and has to be given a wildcard in order to participate. Santoro, ranked exactly at number 50, fell into that category.

The three South Africans who have been given direct entry into the tournament are Izak van der Merwe, Raven Klaasen and Andrew Anderson.

Van der Merwe, ranked 271st in the world, narrowly missed out on making the main draw directly. He is a member of the South African Davis Cup team and won both of his matches in the recent 5-0 clean sweep over Macedonia.

Klaasen, ranked 338, reached the second round of the SA Open after beating Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo, but then lost to former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus 6-3, 7-5.

Anderson qualified for the SA Open and also went down to Baghdatis, in his case in the opening round.

Fritz Wolmarans, who has been plagued by a string of injuries lately, will need to go through the qualifying process in order to get into the main draw.

"Fritz has not played much due to injury. He needs match practice and playing in the qualifiers will benefit him if he goes through,'' said SA Tennis Association chief executive Ian Smith.

"It is great for us to have a player of Santoro's stature at this event, especially in his final year on the tour.

"It should also benefit Izak, Raven and Andrew to get the chance to improve their rankings at an event in their own country.''

The Soweto Open is the first ATP World Tour tournament to be staged in this sprawling township and is sponsored by the City of Johannesburg.

Entrance is free and the qualifier for the event will be played on Saturday and Sunday.

Photo by Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images

Posted by Shelia

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