Namibia’s budding young tennis star, Connor van Schalkwyk, has broken into the world’s top-200 junior rankings for the first time, following a recent string of impressive results.
On 22 August he won the Swedish Junior Open title in Kramfors when he beat Saba Nanobashvili of Sweden 6-4, 6-3 in the boys’ final.
That was a J5-ranked tournament where the competition level was relatively easy, but the week thereafter Van Schalkwyk entered the more challenging J4 Pretoria Junior ITF tournament, where he was ranked third, behind two South Africans, the top-seeded Devin Badenhorst and the second-seeded Luc Koenig.
Van Schalkwyk, however, pulled off two upsets as he beat Badenhorst 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 in the semi-finals, before clinching his second title with a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 victory against Koenig in the final.
A week later he was at it again, competing in an even tougher tournament, the J3 Johannesburg Wanderers Junior ITF tournament, where he once again excelled.
In the quarter-finals he beat the fifth-seeded Connor Kruger of South Africa 7-5, 7-5, and in the semi-finals again beat Badenhorst, who was once again the top seed, 6-1, 6-3.
Van Schalkwyk’s winning run, however, came to an end in the final, which he lost 6-1, 6-4 to the second-seeded Koenig.
Van Schalkwyk’s recent run of success has seen him shooting up the junior world rankings and breaking into the top 200 for the first time.
After being ranked 287th among the world’s top juniors in August, Van Schalkwyk has now improved by nearly 100 places to 196th in the world.
What makes his achievement even more impressive is the fact that he is still only 16 years old, and a year younger than most of the top-ranked players, while he has also played fewer tournaments than the top-ranked players.
According to the ITF junior rankings table, Koenig has played in 38 tournaments and Badenhorst in 33, while Van Schalkwyk has only played in 20 this year.
Van Schalkwyk has now also broken into the top-10 ranked junior players in Africa for the first time.
Three Moroccans lead the list, with Mehdi Benchakroun at 76th in the world, Yassine Dlimi at 108th, and Walid Ahouda at 121st.
They are followed by Toky Ranaivo of Madagascar (132), Wissam Abderrahman of Tunisia (151), and the South Africans Badenhorst (160) and Koenig (162).
Van Schalkwyk’s recent run of success has also seen him being invited to join a Confederation of African Tennis u17 team that will compete in a series of ITF junior tournaments, as well as a training camp in South Africa.
The project is being funded by the Grand Slam Development Fund, while the team consists of four boys and four girls, with the other boys being Badenhorst, Youssef Labbene of Tunisia, and Hady El Kordy of Egypt.
They will compete in a J3 tournament at Stellenbosch from 11 to 15 October, a J2 tournament at the same venue a week later, and a J1-level tournament in Cape Town from 25 to 30 October.
Van Schalkwyk is being supported financially by the Davin Sport Trust Fund who paid for his flight to South Africa.