Raven Klaasen, South Africa’s top ranked tennis world doubles player (12) is back in the country for a short break before he starts training for the 2017 season.
The 34-year-old Capetonian said that reaching the finals of last week’s Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London with American partner, Rajeev Ram, was a career highlight and great end to the year.
“Rajeev and I went into London as the seventh seeds out of eight teams and we knew that it was always going to be tough. But when we beat the world’s top pair Herbert and Mahut of France in our opening round-robin game, we realised that we actually could do some damage at the event.”
Klaasen and Ram upset Jamie Murray (Great Britain)/Bruno Soares (Brazil) in the semi-finals in straight sets before being edged out in the finals to the inform Henri Kontinen (Finland) and John Peers (Australia) in a nail bighting three set final 6-2 1-6 8-10.
“It was real disappointing not to win that final. We were so close but disappointment is part of the game” said Klaasen.
Klaasen feels that he and Ram will “cross the line” and get to the top of the world rankings and win some Grand Slams soon. “Since partnering each other at Wimbledon (2015) we have had a great run, winning a few titles and getting to the semi-finals of Wimbledon this year. We at the point where we believe we truly complement each other.”
Being back in South Africa, Klaasen amongst a lot of media work, has enjoyed catching up with close family and friends and being at home with his wife Celeste. “ I enjoy my down time in the Mother City. Playing a round or two of golf, being with my loved ones and driving around the city and absorbing its beauty make up most of my downtime. I even make sure I do the ‘trek’ up Lions Head which is always special. “
Klaasen is upbeat about South African tennis and hopes that his success will inspire the younger generation to spark an interest in the game and get on the court and play the game. “I feel tennis in South Africa is at a turning point. Tennis South Africa (TSA) have been through some challenging years but they have a new CEO in Richard Glover and some exciting new Board members with good credentials who have introduced new ideas which all lend well to a positive change.”
Tennis according to Klaasen, has faced challenges as it’s a small sport amongst big sports in South Africa. “Tennis needs sponsorship and securing funding in these tough economic times isn’t easy. Also tennis is Dollar and Euro based and with the current exchange rate that makes it even more difficult for TSA. Lastly where our country is placed geographically makes it expensive to develop young players as the travel costs are high.”
Already Klaasen said TSA are giving opportunities to the up and coming local players through hosting Futures events. “We need to host more Futures events in the country to make it economically viable for our younger players to be able to get onto the world rankings. This requires lots of funding and I know TSA are doing all they can to prioritize that.”
Klaasen added that he was pleased TSA CEO Richard Glover aimed to bring back the successful Super Squad system which helped players travel the tour with their coaching and physical trainers expenses covered. “Our Super Squads of the past produced top players like Wayne Ferreira and Amanda Coetzer and I know that those that were part of the system give the system huge credit for their success.”
Brisbane will be in the first tournament of the 2017 season for Klaasen and Ram. “next week I will start my preparation for the Australian swing of the tour and head off ‘down under’ on the 28 December. I have decided to skip the tournament after Brisbane and head early to Melbourne to put in some extra preparation for the Australian open which I enjoy playing and have done well at over the past few years.”