In January this year, Raven Klaasen became the first South African to reach a Grand Slam final since Wesley Moodie did so at Roland Garros in 2009.
Klaasen and his doubles partner, American Eric Butorac, beat four seeded teams on their way to the Australian Open doubles final, including world number ones Bob and Mike Bryan.
And although they eventually finished runners up to Poland’s Lukasz Kubot and Sweden’s Robert Lindstedt, reaching the final is a memory Klaasen will forever treasure.
“To this point in my career it was my high point,” he says.
“It has given me the belief that it’s possible to one day lift the trophy at a Grand Slam. It’s a memory that not only justifies all the years of sacrifice but will last the rest of my life.”
The 31-year-old, who was born in King William’s Town, and Butorac registered their second victory of the year over the Bryans to claim the National Indoor Tennis Championships title in Memphis in February.
This was Klaasen’s fourth ATP World Tour trophy (his second with Butorac).
He hopes to work himself into the top 20 doubles rankings by the end of the year. Klaasen grew up playing tennis, starting at the age of six, and admits that it has been a difficult journey at times.
“There have been many doubtful moments along the way,” he admits.
“I found that the best thing you can do is have people around you who really support and believe in you. They get you through the tough times. Also having good structures in place to plan your training and travelling makes a huge difference. The hard work and dedication are a given because without that you have no chance to compete at the highest level.” — Fatima Asmal