Earl Grainger named new Davis Cup captain
South Africa is due to play a Euro/Africa Zone Group 2 tie against Turkey in Mersin from March 6 to 8 and there was little time available to fill the gap left by the recent resignation of John-Laffnie de Jager.
Earl, who is one of the most successful tennis coaches in the country, was appointed Fed Cup team captain last year and has already managed to build up a good rapport with all the players, so much so, that he is the first coach who has been able to bring South Africa’s No 1 player, Chani Scheepers, back into the Fed Cup fold.
Scheepers, after long discussions with Grainger, has confirmed she will be playing in the upcoming Europe/Africa Group 2 tie in Tallinn, Estonia from February 4 to 7. This will be the first time in 10 years that South Africa will field its strongest team.
As a player he competed against the likes of Boris Becker, Brad Gilbert, Mike de Palmer, Paul Annecone and Dan Goldie. He won the US Sectional Indoor doubles title with Annecone, who later went on to coach some of the best-ever players such as Pete Sampras, Andy Murray and Roger Federer.
Earl practised at the prestigious Nick Bollettieri Academy together with Jimmy Arias, Chip Hooper, Mike de Palmer Junior and Annecone. He learned his coaching career under Mike de Palmer senior who started the Nick Bollettieri Academy.
Players who have made their names at his Earl Grainger Tennis Academy in Gauteng Central include Davis Cup members Dean O’Brien and Ruan Roelofse as well as Fed Cup teammates Chanel Simmonds and Natasha Fourouclas.
“John-Laffnie has done a great job with the Davis Cup team over the past nine years and I realise his shoes will be tough to fill,” said Earl. “My role will be to build on what he has achieved.
“I was honoured when TSA approached me and I can assure everyone I will be 100 per cent committed to the task at hand.”
‘Leibke’ ready for the Met, says Basil
A few months back I wrote about a horse nobody wanted named Louis The King, who has now won more than R7 million in stakes money. “Louis” was bred by The Alchemy stud farm owned by the Kahan family, but was virtually given away to trainer Geoff Woodruff for R60 000.
He has gone on to become only the second horse to win the SA Triple Crown and in November added the Sansui Summer Cup to his illustrious record.
Because of his history and the heart he shows in running, Louis The King is very much “the people’s horse”. He has also been renamed by the Jewish horse followers and is known in the community as “Leibke Hamelech”.
Well, “Leibke” is running in this weekend’s R2,5 million J&B Met and at Kenilworth in Cape Town and coincidentally his work rider while at the coast has been former jockey and trainer Basil Marcus, who Woodruff has called the “best work rider in the world”.
Basil, older brother of current jockey Anton, packed up laughing when I told him Louis had been given a Yiddish name. “I must say, since he’s come to Cape Town he has blossomed. Whenever they come here they take a bit of time to settle down, but I thought his Queen’s Plate run, where he finished second to Futura, was beautiful and he’s come on a bit since then.
“I could feel he’s a very intelligent horse and he knows what to do. Once he’s on the grass he comes alive. He becomes a lot more alert and doesn’t get excited.
“In fact, if Louis were a person he would be like Geoff Woodruff. He just takes everything in his stride.”
One of the highlights for Basil was that he got to ride “Leibke” in last Thursday’s public gallop, the first time he has been seen riding in public for many years. “It was pre-planned that I would ride him and luckily I haven’t put on much weight so I can still ride at 58kg. It was awesome to ride in a Met gallop again.
“The horse gave me a lovely feel,” said Basil. “He strode out magnificently, glided through his work and I couldn’t be happier.
“When you’re sitting on Louis you can understand why he is what he is. There’s often a fairytale behind good horses. That’s what racing is about. Horses come just out of the blue and it’s weird.”
Basil rode in Hong Kong for 11 years in the latter years of his career and was champion jockey on seven occasions. He has also won the Met on two occasions – with Foveros and Model Man, the two horses he rates among the best he has ever ridden.