EASTERN Province's Kaylin Bouwer earned the right to compete in the Nike Junior International Masters tournament when she won the SA Masters under-12 tennis title in Potchefstroom at the weekend.
The Charlo Primary pupil defeated Corin de Waal, of Boland, 6-3 7-5 in the final, qualifying for the Nike Junior International Masters in Florida in the US in December. En route to the final, she won all her round-robin matches to complete the tournament unbeaten.
The triumph enabled Bouwer to secure a sponsorship with Prince Tennis and the chance to compete against the world's best juniors, with 41 countries set to be represented in Florida.
The Nike Junior Tour (NJT) has spawned many players who have gone on to the professional circuit, the most famous being Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who first played in the tournament when he was 11.
Nadal played the NJT International Masters four times and won it in 1998, 1999 and 2000, which was at Sun City. The only time he was defeated was his first event in 1997 aged 11 when he lost in the semifinals.
"The Nike Junior Tour is an excellent breeding ground for young talent," Tennis South Africa chief executive Ian Smith said. "It also affords our top youngsters the opportunity to travel overseas and play against some of the best in the world."
Bouwer, who is coached by former professional player Yvonne Vermaak, is ranked four in the SA girls' u-14 rankings.
Two other EP players excelled – at the week in Jandre Lessing (u-14 boys) and Carli van Onselen (u-12 girls).
However, they both fell in the semifinals. Van Onselen came up against her EP colleague in the last four and went down 6-2 6-2, while Lessing lost to eventual u-14 winner Nikolai Manchev, of KwaZulu Natal, 6-2 6-3. Manchev came from behind to beat Bloemfontein's Hubert Badenhorst 7-6 (5) 6-2 in the final.
The girls' u-14 final saw the battle of the Barnard twins, a repeat of last year's under-12 final. This year it was the turn of Lee to beat Zani 7-6 (5) 6-4 to earn her place at the International Masters.
In the boys' finals Christiaan Worst, of Pretoria, needed two hours and 52 minutes to upset top seed Philip Henning, of Free State, 5-7 7-6 6-4.