Free State Dunlop Series concludes

Mark Steenbok

The Free State Dunlop Challenge hosted by Free State Tennis concluded in the City of Roses on Saturday with over 600 junior players having invaded different tennis courts around Bloemfontein.

Highly rated Joubert Klopper from the Free State was the big winner when he won the u.14 title during the finals of the Dunlop Free State Challenge played at the Free State Stadium on Saturday.

MC Oliver, one of his coaches at the Gustav Fichardt Tennis Academy, described the youngster as a grinder and a fighter after he fought back to defeat fourth seed Pierre Malan of Western Province 6-2, 6-2.

He also won the u.14 doubles championship with Charl Morgan, when they defeated Robbie Arend and Thando Longwe-Smit from Western Province by 6-2, 6-3.

Fellow Free State tennis star Phillip Henning, who’s currently one the best u.14 players in the country, competed in a league higher this time around (u.16). He unfortunately had to be satisfied with a third-place finish.

Henning was the winner of the u.14 Junior Nationals title last week.

Another Freestater Gizelle Naude represented her province in fine style by winning the u.12 title by defeating Alta Brink from the Boland 6-2 6-7 (7) 6-3, but the accolades didn’t stop there. Naude futher teamed up with Ane de Waal to beat Alta Brink and Maretha Burger by 6-2 6-1 in the u.12 girls doubles finals.

Delien Kleinhans, who was last week crowned as the u.14 girls champion at the Junior nationals, unfortunately had to settle for second place with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 defeat to Myah Petchey.

Top seed Nikolai Manchev of KwaZulu-Natal beat fifth seed Raul Stevens of Gauteng North 6-4 6-3 in the men’s finals. The women’s final saw third seed Nicole Petchey of Western Province upset second seed Mila Hartig of Gauteng North 6-1 6-3 to walk away with the bragging rights.

Central Gauteng grabbed both the u.12 and u.16 trophies with Connor van Schalkwyk and Bertus Kruger winning against Tinashe Taruberekera and Matthew Johnson respectively. Maja Gledic from Gauteng Central won the u.16 title.

Tournament director MC Oliver further described the week to Courant as a success. He jokingly referred to the fact that the rain didn’t interrupt proceedings as with the Junior Nationals also played in Bloemfontein.

He did, however, emphasise that it was difficult for players to grow accustomed to the format played in the tournament.