Kevin Anderson has not represented the country for nearly three years, yet the debate rages around his possible availability ahead of every Davis Cup tie.
The country’s top-ranked player has told Tennis SA he will consider making himself available on a tie-by-tie basis, making it abundantly clear who is in control. And while Anderson takes a lot of flak for his absence from the team, he has his reasons.
South Africa’s national cricketers and rugby players are awarded contracts, with retainers and support attached, while footballers are pampered by their clubs and offered lucrative salaries.
If Anderson, on the other hand, picks up an injury he does not get the backing of a federation, provincial body or club to cover the costs of recovery, or pay his bills while he’s off the court.
All these responsibilities are left to the player himself, who must pay his own support staff with his earnings each week.
Tennis SA will cover Anderson’s travel costs for the week if he makes himself available for Davis Cup ties, and he will not miss ATP Tour events because windows are opened in the fixtures list.
If he picks up a serious injury, though, his long-term recovery will become his own problem, at his own cost, and could disrupt the steady progress of his career.
By giving the team competition a miss and focusing entirely on his performance on tour, he hopes to improve his odds.
While his reasons seem clear enough, Anderson’s unavailability has become somewhat of an unnecessary embarrassment for TSA.
The federation announced on Monday that long-time Fed Cup absentee Chanelle Scheepers had been added to the national squad, and captain Earl Grainger said she was “fully committed” to SA tennis.
It was confirmed yesterday, however, that Scheepers was unavailable for next month’s Group II tournament in Lithuania as it clashes with her plans on the WTA tour.
The federation might not have control over Anderson or Scheepers, but they do have control over team selection. It’s time they put their foot down, took the decision away from the players and moved on.