November 20 2013 at 05:03pm By SAPA
Johannesburg – After nearly 10 years at the helm, Tennis SA (TSA) chief executive Ian Smith announced on Wednesday that he will step down to pursue other interests.
“I've really enjoyed my tenure, and was privileged to meet some fantastic people both locally and overseas,” Smith said in a statement.
“The South African public may not fully appreciate that tennis, unlike rugby, cricket and soccer in this country, is considered a peripheral sport along with the majority of other local sporting codes.
Smith said he had been contemplating his future for some time and had discussed his possible departure with some members of his board.
Since his appointment in 2004, Smith has played a key role in turning TSA's fortunes around.
He secured significant sponsorship and through grants was able to implement numerous programmes to develop tennis at all levels.
Smith negotiated the five-year deal between SA Airways (SAA) and the ATP that resulted in the internationally acclaimed South African Open that ran from 2009 to 2011 at Montecasino.
He has built a reputation as a tournament director, having successfully run several SA Opens, Soweto Opens and multiple Davis Cup ties.
Along with current TSA president Wire Zondi and Ali Bacher, Smith is credited with the creation of a world-class tennis facility in Soweto, which boasts 16 tennis courts, a clubhouse, and grandstand.
The facility has hosted several Davis Cup ties, Soweto Opens and a number of junior tournaments. It is also used by the local community for social and club tennis.
“TSA has faced tough challenges, but it has always overcome them and I wish all those involved a great future,” Smith said.
“I especially salute the hundreds of enthusiasts in the provinces who voluntarily dedicate their time and effort to myriad tennis activities.”
Zondi acknowledged Smith's contribution to tennis in South Africa and said his legacy would be around for many years.
“All of us at TSA wish to thank Ian warmly for his enormous contribution to South African tennis and wish him every future success,” he said.
Zondi said plans had been put in place to ensure the smooth running of the organisation until a successor to Smith was appointed.