Salton with SA Davis Cup team in Israel
“I would love to be number one in the world, and win multiple grand slams.”
This is the ambition of 19-year-old Dylan Salton, the 1 123rd best professional tennis player in the world, who has been selected by the South African national team for its Davis Cup World Group I promotion playoff against Israel in Ashdod on 4 and 5 March 2022.
Salton – the youngest and only Jewish player on the team – says being named in his country’s five-man playing squad is the highlight of his career.
This former King David Linksfield student’s teammates include Lloyd Harris, the number one men’s singles player in Africa, and doubles specialist Raven Klaasen.
The South African team arrived in Israel on Monday, 28 February, and have been practising ahead of the playoff.
If South Africa seals its spot in the 110th edition of the Davis Cup, Salton stands a chance of playing in the world’s largest annual international team competition, following in the footsteps of tennis greats such as John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal.
“I was selected for the Davis Cup on 27 January as I got pretty decent results in the past few months, meaning my ranking got higher,” Salton told the SA Jewish Report from the hotel in which his team is based in Israel.
He made the semi-finals of the men’s singles in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) South Africa F1 Futures in September last year before reaching the semi-finals of the men’s doubles in the ITF Israel F6 Futures two months later.
“At the moment, I’m in transition from juniors to professionals,” says Salton. “This is my first year out of juniors, so I had a decent year last year, getting a few more points and jumping my ranking close to 1 000th in the world. I haven’t won anything yet, but the results will come.”
Last month, Salton competed in Egypt, where he won four of the seven qualifying matches he played in three editions of the ITF Egypt Futures.
Salton trains at the Real Athletes Tennis Academy (RATA) at Bedfordview Country Club. “I train six times a week,” he says. “Three or four hours of court time every day, and then an hour and a half of fitness and stretching.”
His coaches are former Davis Cup coach Earl Grainger, the owner of the academy, and Zimbabwean Ngoni Chizunza, who spent time in the United States in 2011 learning from coaches of many world-renowned tennis players.
Salton started playing tennis at the age of four. “My older brother played tennis, so obviously I wanted to copy him,” he says. “He stopped playing a few years back. I carried on. I love it so much.”
Salton achieved wins at provincial and South African national school level before leaving King David in Grade 9. He went to the Balderstone Sports Institute in Linksfield. “In Grade 11, I switched over to home schooling at Earl’s academy. I finished my schooling there.”
He used to play soccer a lot, even captaining his King David team. “That was my first choice of sport, but I quit that when I was 13 to focus on tennis.”
Salton played in the Maccabi Games when he was in Grade 9 in 2017. “I lost in round 16 against the guy who made the finals,” he recalls.
Many people compare him to his fellow left-handed tennis player, Rafael Nadal, the winner of the most Grand Slam men’s singles titles in history.
“I have a similar game style to him,” says Salton. “The competitiveness and intensity of my game are similar to his.”
Several years ago, Salton got Nadal’s autograph in Majorca, Spain. “I was there to take part in a training camp. There was a function for Carlos Moyá, Nadal’s current coach,” says Salton. “They were both there as well as Nadal’s uncle, Toni. I got their autographs.”