Continuing a family fascination with the game of tennis, Katie Franck dreams of imitating her cousin Kevin Anderson in scaling the ranks of the ATP Tour…
The 6’8”-tall Anderson is South Africa’s top-ranked tennis professional and is currently ranked 18th in the world.
“When Kev was last out in South Africa, he was practising his serve and let me return a few. I’m glad to say that I managed to hit a few serves back to him!” says the Grade 6 learner who attends St Mary’s School, Waverley in Johannesburg.
Katie has already achieved success, having won numerous competitions at school level
She is now picking up valuable tournament experience by participating in the RCS BNP Paribas Rising Stars National Primary Schools Championship. This is the first year that this nationwide competition is taking place, involving more than 450 schools in all nine provinces across South Africa.
The seven-month-long competition – championed by Kevin Anderson – aims to increase youth participation in the sport and find the best boys and girls school tennis teams in the country.
Katie says the recent Marks Park tournament showed the value of the competition in bringing together players from different schools. “I am really, really enjoying the extra competition. It was great to play children from the Arthur Ashe Academy,” she says.
Tennis runs a deep thread through Katie’s immediate and extended family
And how could she resist? She was presented with her first tennis racquet when she was only five years old by none less than her grandmother, who had excelled at the sport in her youth.
“I started playing tennis when I was five years old, and was coached as a young player by Eric van Eck,” Katie says. “By pure coincidence he also coached Kevin Anderson when he was very young!”
She adds that apart from the competitive side of the sport, she loves that she has a tennis court at home and gets to play outside with friends and family. And that playing the game has taught her sportsmanship and accepting defeat.
“I also like that it’s an individual sport and you are totally responsible for yourself. This also means I prefer singles to doubles.”
While Katie is still too young to consider taking part in a major like Wimbledon in the immediate future, this is far from a pipe dream in the long run.
“I don’t think I’ll get to Wimbledon in the next three years,” she jokes, “but I think I could spend more time on the court. Kevin’s dad said I have a lot of potential, but it all requires a huge amount of dedication.”
In Kruger National Park