Photo: Nata SamsTucker Vorster (RSA)
Former South African Davis Cup player, Tucker Vorster, has brought new life to his tennis career with a switch to the sand.
Fresh to the beach alternative, the 29-year-old has played a significant role to secure the ITF Beach Tennis World Team Championship debutants the best finish by an African nation at this year’s tournament – 18th.
First picking up a racquet at the age of five, the Pretoria Boys High alumnus played as a successful junior before being recruited by the University of Mississippi to play college tennis, paving the way to become a professional.
The former world No. 278 first represented his country in Davis Cup in 2015.
“It was one of the highlights of my career,” Vorster said.
However, after being approached by the National Association to take up a junior coaching role, Vorster was asked to trial the sport by his current captain and pioneer of beach tennis in South Africa, Iain Smith.
“Because he’s a well-known tennis personality in South Africa… we felt it would really be nice to have a Davis Cup member participating and being in beach tennis and it seems to have paid off well,” Smith said.
Currently sitting at world No. 1105, Vorster aims to crack into the world’s top 20 – 258 places higher than his best-ever ATP ranking.
“I think it’s definitely achievable, even in a year’s time,” Vorster said. “There’s a lot less people playing beach tennis than traditional tennis so in effect, it’s a lot easier to climb up in the ranks.”
“The fact that I’ve got that professional background as a tennis player does count in my favour and I think it might make it a little bit easier to climb up a little bit faster.”
Beach tennis partner, Ryan Brookshaw, believes Vorster has the attitude to climb to the top.
“He’s very laid-back but he knows when to turn it on. He knows when to focus… and when things need to get done, he’ll take over which is nice.”
Team captain Smith says the team looks to Vorster in those pressure situations but is treated just the same as his teammates.
“We all play together as a team. We win as a team, we lose as a team, we enjoy it as a team and all we are doing is learning so that’s the great part of it,” Smith said.
In the midst of learning to improve his own game, it’s the game of others that Vorster is also passionate about.
“I’m helping to promote the sport but I’m also a player so it’s really cool,” Vorster said.
The wildcard entrants into this year’s championship is leading the way when it comes to beach tennis promotion in a country where the sport is still in its infancy.
One example is a home Davis Cup tie, where a beach tennis tournament is held at the venue and ticket holders can try their hand at beach tennis for free.
Current South African Davis Cup player and two-time Grand Slam finalist, Kevin Anderson, is perhaps at risk of Vorster’s marketing tactics when he decides to hang up the racquet.
“I don’t know if he’ll make the switch [to the paddle] but I think we can get him to do a couple of exhibition matches,” Vorster said.