Other than South African tennis stars Kevin Anderson and Raven Klaasen flying the Rainbow nation flag at the first Grand Slam of 2016, three South African tennis officials will be representing the country in Melbourne at the Australian Open which starts next week. Tennis South Africa’s (TSA) Technical Manager Ian Smith, Africa’s highest ranked tennis official who heads the officiating programme at TSA is presently in Melbourne to do Review Officiating duty there. Smith says: ‘Being appointed to officiate at the Australian Open is a big responsibility, but an appointment that is very much appreciated and an honour to accept. Working any of the Grand Slams even once is an accomplishment as being part of the games is a wonderful experience and a privilege.’
Smith is joined by three other South African officials, all Pretoria based, namely George Phiri, Charles Mehlape and Pieter Hoeksma who will have line and chair umpiring duties for the Grand Slam. Mehlape who has been based in Australia for a number of years, was nominated through the Tennis Australian officiating system but recently moved back to South Africa. Phiri says: ‘Tennis Officiating is my first love and passion and to officiate in the game at the highest level is a true honour for me.’ Hoeksma says: ‘Only after arriving at the Australian Open site for my seventh Australian Open I realised once again how privileged I am to be part of this amazing event. After so many years I still get goosebumps when walking on court and always a little nervous for those close calls. I’m really looking forward to the next three weeks of awesome tennis experience.’
Tennis South African President and acting Chief Executive Officer, Gavin Crookes says: ‘My best wishes go the four officials all the best as they head to Melbourne to work at the opening Grand Slam of 2016. I know they will do themselves, South Africa and the game proud.’ The Australian Open takes place in Australia Melbourne from 18 to 31 January 2016.