International men’s tennis returns to South Africa, under strict COVID-19 protocols, with the news that Tennis South Africa (TSA) will be hosting two weeks of back-to-back ATP Challenger events in early 2021.

The two ATP Challenger 80 events will take place in a COVID-19 bio-bubble at the tennis complex at North-West University (NWU), Potchefstroom – during the weeks commencing the 8th and 15th February 2021, respectively.
Challenger events are the second highest level of international men’s ATP tennis tournaments, after the ATP Tour (250, 500 and Masters events). In March 2021, TSA hosted an ATP Challenger 50 at the same venue, but unfortunately the tournament had to be cancelled mid-way through due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Challenger events have been made possible thanks to an innovative commercial joint venture between TSA and Henico Schalekamp, Chief Executive of Schalekamp Group Holdings, as well as support from the ATP and North West University. The JV sees TSA and Schalekamp partner to co-fund the events, with the objective of growing and elevating the profile and stature of the tournament in future years.

South African teen sensation Kholo Montsi in action at the Potch Open, an ATP Challenger 50 at North West University, Potchefstroom in March 2020. Picture Credit: Tennis South Africa
South African teen sensation Kholo Montsi in action at the Potch Open, an ATP Challenger 50 at North West University, Potchefstroom in March 2020.
Picture Credit: Tennis South Africa

Schalekamp is excited to have assisted in bringing a second year of ATP Challenger events to South Africa: “While it was very sad to see year one of our Challenger tournament cancelled earlier this year, it is very encouraging to see the number of ATP Challengers in the country grow from one to two in 2021. Hosting these types of events is critical for our up-and-coming players and we look forward to seeing them use the tournaments as a launch-pad for a professional career. Both TSA and I have big plans for the Challenger series – so watch this space.”

North-West University is the official host venue for the 2021 tournaments, and as part of their partnership with TSA are making available the new world class tennis facility at their Potchefstroom Campus. Sheldon Rostron, Head of Sport at NWU is delighted to see international tennis returning to the University: “NWU is grateful for the opportunity to host the ATP Challenger again, especially considering the impact of Covid-19 on the event in 2020. We are glad that we can assist in hosting this event as it means a lot to tennis in South Africa. The NWU strives in playing a role and providing opportunities for our stars and youth as it complements our philosophy and what we stand for within the greater sporting community. We are confident in our protocols, our staff and the facilities to deal with the continued effects of Covid-19 and look forward to ensuring this event is a success.”

Richard Glover, CEO of Tennis South Africa, welcomed the news and stressed that the organising team will ensure all COVID-19 safety guidelines are implemented: “We would like to thank the ATP, North West University and Henico Schalekamp for their collective support in making this happen – it is a real boost for men’s tennis in the country. We are very conscious of the threat posed by COVID-19 and so the events will take place, without spectators, in a bio-bubble at North West University. There will be regular testing protocols for all event staff and participants, furthermore all social distancing, isolation and hygiene protocols will be rigorously implemented.”

The ATP events will run parallel to two back-to-back weeks’ of $25 000 International Tennis Federation World Tennis Tour events for women – which are being hosted at the same venue.