Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

OPINION: Rare absence of SA players at French Open is disappointing

It is the first time South Africa will not be represented in the main draw at a Grand Slam since readmission in the early Nineties.

It’s a sad day for South African tennis, with no players turning out in the main draw at the French Open over the next two weeks.

Former US Open quarterfinalist Lloyd Harris, the country’s top-ranked player, had to compete in the qualifying tournament last week after his ranking slipped due to injury disruptions in recent years.

He was eliminated in the second qualifying round, however, and if he can’t find a spot in the doubles division, it will be the first time South Africa has not been represented in the main draw at a Grand Slam tournament since the nation’s readmission to international sport in the early Nineties.

What it highlights is a lack of depth.

Dry run ahead?

With former world No 5 Kevin Anderson and doubles specialist Raven Klaasen having retired in recent years, Harris has been left to lead a lone fight on the elite global circuit.

But he has a long road ahead to get back to his best, and it might be some time before we see Harris regularly putting up a fight at Grand Slams again.

Until then, South African tennis fans will have to focus their attention on the international battle at top-flight tournaments.

As always, however, there will be plenty to shout about at Roland Garros over the next fortnight.

Leading the charge is Spanish icon Rafael Nadal who has suggested this will be his final appearance at a tournament he has dominated for the last two decades.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal during a practice match ahead of the French Open. Picture: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

It might seem a stretch to suggest the 37-year-old veteran, who is ranked 276th in the world, can challenge for what would be a 23rd career Grand Slam title because he will have to beat the likes of fellow icon Novak Djokovic and 21-year-old phenom Carlos Alcaraz. But Nadal is a legend and he can’t be counted out in his attempt to grab a record 15th French Open crown.

The women’s tournament also promises to be hotly contested, with top-ranked Polish player Iga Swiatek and 20-year-old American star Coca Gauff spearheading the line-up.

So even without SA players in the main draw in the open division, for all tennis fans, it should be a tournament to remember.

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