Local tennis player named captain for worlds

Marianne Badenhorst has lived in Canada for just 10 years, but that may have made her smile even bigger when she found out she was not only going to represent Canada at the International Tennis Federation World Team Championships, but do so wearing a ‘C’.

Marianne Badenhorst has lived in Canada for just 10 years, but that may have made her smile even bigger when she found out she was not only going to represent Canada at the International Tennis Federation World Team Championships, but do so wearing a ‘C’.

“The biggest honour of it is to be chosen as captain, it is just the cherry on the cake. It is a reward for hard work and hard practice,“ said Badenhorst who will lead the 45-50-year-old women’s team.

“It’s just amazing when you are there and it finally sinks in that you are there for Canada — it’s a great honour. It is, to me, like I was on the Olympic team. It’s the same feeling.

“You have goals in life. I’m very competitive and if a goal is reachable I will do my best to reach that goal.”

As captain it is her responsibility to choose who plays when, to be a leader, and to be an ambassador for the country.

“It is my responsible to get the team together, practice and select the team best for the day — it all depends on who we play —and see that we do well,” said Badenhorst.

The championships are in Mexico City March 29-April 3.

Badenhorst qualified for the team by her play at provincials, indoor nationals and outdoor nationals — ranking third overall out of 32 players.

This will be her second time representing Canada at the world championships, having done so in Turkey in 2008.

That experience was huge for her, but it also let her know just how big of an underdog the Canadian team will be in Mexico.

Many of the players they will encounter are former WTA professionals or full-time coaches.

“It was an amazing experience, you play against the best in the world in senior tennis,” she said. “A lot of them are tennis coaches, they just coach and that’s all they do, they don’t do anything else.”

But Badenhorst adds that the with the addition of coach Rene Simon and the tennis bubble in Red Deer she now can play year round on a proper court and that is only going to help her.

“I have a great advantage of finally being able to play on no more indoor courts — in the past I have been playing at the Collicutt on the indoor soccer pitch and it’s not quite the same, or I had to drive to Calgary two or three times a week to play on regular tennis courts,” she said.

Badenhorst, 46, has three kids in high school, she works, and also volunteers a lot at the Red Deer Tennis Club while still trying to get some practice in.

She played tennis in high school, but switched to squash when in university. When the Badenhorsts relocated from Swellendam, South Africa — two hours from Cape Town — in 2000 to Prince Albert, Sask., tennis became her life line into the community. When they moved to Red Deer that life line turned into an extended family.

“My dad always said, ‘If you want to meet people, fun people and good people, go to the tennis club,’ and that’s what I did,” she said.

The club will even be hosting a mixed doubles match with a wine and cheese in her honour on Friday at 7 p.m. as they give her a proper send off to the world championships.

“For them to do this is heart warming for me, I appreciate it so much,” said Badenhorst.

“We volunteer a lot at the club and it goes both ways, it feels like you can do anything for them and they appreciate what you are doing.”

Her entire family now plays the sport and she says it is something she plans to continue to play as long as she can.

“It’s a sport for life,” Badenhorst said.

“At nationals I see guys who are 85 and competing and they are in great shape. They can be out there for hours and enjoy life — you never see a single one of them without a smile on their face when they get off the court.

“If I can play as long as they do and be in shape as well as they are, that would be great.”

jaldrich@bprda.wpengine.com