Arends, Kleinhans, Van Der Merwe To Make Billie Jean King Cup Debut For South Africa

Kelly Arends (photo: Picture Café / Barco Greeff)

CENTURION, June 7, 2021 (SA Tennis Press Release)

Roxanne Clarke, South Africa’s Billie Jean King Cup captain, on Monday announced an exciting five-member national team packed with talented young players for the upcoming Billie Jean King Cup Europe/Africa Group III tournament to be held in Vilnius, Lithuania between 15-19 June 2021.

The SA squad will be spearheaded by three-time African Games medallist Chanel Simmonds, who has represented the country 34 times in the international women’s team competition.

Katie Poluta, who graduated from the University of Texas last year, will also add some experience to the team.

They will be joined by teenagers Delien Kleinhans, Lara van der Merwe and Kelly Arends, who will all make their BJK Cup debuts.

“It has been quite a challenge to put a team together as the uncertainty with travel restrictions has made it difficult not just for us, but for all the nations competing,” said SA captain Roxanne Clarke.

“We’ve all learned very early on in this COVID-19 era that from these challenges also come opportunities for players to really show their resilience and even cause a few surprises.

“So, for the young players on the team this is a great chance for them to show what they’re made of, and I feel very good about this event.”

The team will arrive in Lithuania on 12 June, as they are allowed to arrive only three days before the event due to health and safety measures, and all squad members must produce negative COVID-19 tests before they can start preparing on the indoor hardcourt surface.

Despite the limitations, however, Clarke says they are eager to prove they can rise above the challenges in an attempt to gain promotion to Europe/Africa Group II.

“It has been tough trying to make this event happen for our players and I am grateful to everyone at Tennis South Africa who has worked on getting us to Lithuania,” Clarke said.

“These are uncertain and challenging times, but it is also a fantastic opportunity to rise to the challenge. It’s been a dream of mine to represent my country as the BJK Cup Captain and I’ll wear our colors proudly, albeit with a mask.”

A total of 23 nations will compete at the BJK Cup Europe/Africa Group III tournament, including Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Ghana, Ireland, Kenya, Malta, Montenegro, Namibia, Nigeria, Norway, Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe and more, with the first round being split into six groups.

The winners of each group will progress to the playoffs, with the top two teams ultimately gaining promotion to Group II next season.

SA team:

Chanel Simmonds

Katie Poluta

Delien Kleinhans

Lara van der Merwe

Kelly Arends

Captain – Roxanne Clarke