06 Jan, 2014

Advantage Simmonds

Advantage Simmonds

In the second edition of Modern Athlete back in 2009, we interviewed a 16-year-old who was already the country’s top junior tennis player, African Junior Champion, and a player who had reached the quarter-finals of the Junior French Open. Today, Chanel has a singles ranking of 175th in the world and is hoping to break the top 100 by the end of this year. “It’s about getting into the main draw at the slams and winning smaller tournaments on the way,” Chanel explains. She is currently ranked second in the SA national singles women rankings behind Chanel Scheepers, and at this year’s Australian Open, she was just short of the final draw qualification, and is regularly proving her mettle against the big guns.


“My mom was a tennis player, so I was forced to try the sport out as a kid,” says Chanel, “I didn’t like it at first, but grew into it, played on a provincial level at school, and then represented South Africa at age 14.” A seasoned player at slams as a junior and now a senior, Chanel has got used to all the travelling and the crowds. “At first it was scary, because there were a lot of people watching you, every point is hard-fought and you come up against girls who train just as hard as you do, but I prepare well.” Touring all over the globe is always a task for Chanel but her father being a pilot has its perks with flight discounts and she has also paid her own way with prize money over the last few seasons. With Babolet sponsoring her with racquets, grips and strings, Chanel’s game is all taken care of.



Chanel trains at Virgin Active Bedfordview and uses running as a base for her work on court. While running long distances ups her endurance, a lot of her groundwork consists of shorter 400m and 200m sprints to work on speed. “During a game you have 10-second bursts of pace where you have to be fast on the court, running from side to side and to the baseline and net, so my running preparation helps.”


Chanel trains for three-and-a-half hours Monday to Friday on court, seeing her coach and trainer for an hour three times a week, and also spends some time in the gym to work on her overall strength training. Nutrition also plays a huge role in her lifestyle, and while she doesn’t have a specific diet, she introduces more carbs before a tournament and specific protein foods for muscle recovery. “With a sponsor like USN, it’s simple for me, and they’ve helped me a lot!”



Chanel’s recent success is also due to long-time coach Earl Grainger, who has been with her since she was 14. “He helps me mentally prepare and makes sure I stay positive,” says Chanel. “He has helped my technical game over the years, and even though he can’t tour with me overseas, we always communicate about my results and opponents.”


Chanel brings a different style of play to the game: “As a left-handed player, I have an advantage because a lot of players don’t know how to defend against my style of play and people say I use it to my advantage – and why not? Like my favourite player, Rafael Nadal, I use a lot of ‘leftie’ techniques, like slicing and the angle my serve takes.”


While Chanel is left with little time for hobbies, she recently used painting and drawing as a go-to whilst recovering from a hamstring injury she picked up in March. She is fully recovered now, and travelled to Montenegro in the beginning of April to represent South African at The Fed Cup. “You have to remember to have fun and enjoy tennis,” she says, “and you have to set clear goals within yourself to succeed.”