The 2023 tennis season is well underway now and attention will soon be centred on Flushing Meadows in New York City for the US Open. The fourth and final Grand Slam of the year, the tournament will host all of the top tennis players competing for the main titles currently held by Carlos Alcaraz and Iga Światek.
Unfortunately, there has been little to celebrate for South African tennis fans in recent years. Kevin Anderson made it to the final of two majors a few years ago but there have been no champions from this country. As we dream of another title winner soon and make our tennis betting picks, here are five of the best South African tennis players of all time – including Kevin Anderson.
Although Ferreira never managed to win a Grand Slam, he was a well-regarded fixture of the sport in the 1990s and became known for his giant-killing exploits. He beat Pete Sampras on six different occasions and ended his career with a winning record against the great Roger Federer.
He won 15 ATP tournaments in a distinguished career and rose as high as sixth in the world rankings in 1995. He was almost as good as a doubles player and won a silver medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. He is currently the main coach of American player Frances Tiafoe.
Paving the way for women’s tennis in South Africa, Sandra Reynolds was one of the very best in the 1950s and 60s, although her main accomplishments were in the doubles tournaments. She won five Grand Slam doubles titles – and one Grand Slam mixed doubles championship.
Reynolds is also the only South African woman to ever make the final of the Wimbledon championship, losing in straight sets to Maria Bueno in 1960. She became the first, and only, South African to ever be seeded number one in a singles major the next year.
Switching allegiance to the US in 1982 because of the Apartheid system operating in South Africa at the time, Johan Kriek won back-to-back Australian Open titles in 1981 and 1982. But he was just as good on other surfaces, reaching the semi-finals of the French and US Opens, and the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.
Kriek climbed as high as seventh in the world rankings in 1984 and finished his career with 14 singles titles and eight doubles titles. He played at the top level of the sport for almost 20 years and can claim to have won both his Australian Open titles in the same year, due to the scheduling of the competitions.
One of the most talented female tennis players from South Africa in the modern era, Amanda Coetzer proved that size isn’t everything. Standing at only 5ft 2, opponents towered over her and were expected to power their way to victory. But Coetzer was incredibly quick across the court and boasted a fearsome defence.
Those talents ensured that she enjoyed a top 20 WTA ranking for ten consecutive years and reached the final of the 1993 US Open doubles. She also reached the latter rounds of all three other Grand Slams and won nine WTA finals and built a reputation for beating supposedly better players.
The most recent elite South African tennis player, Kevin Anderson reached the final of both the 2017 US Open and the 2018 Wimbledon championships, losing out to Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic respectively. He reached the latter final after enduring a six-hour game in the semi-final.
In a 15-year pro career, Anderson won seven titles and can boast of a five-set victory over Roger Federer in 2018. Although he only ever managed to rank as high as 58th in the world but will undoubtedly go down as one of the best South African tennis players of recent times thanks to those Grand Slam final appearances.