Cape Town – A legend of South African tennis, David Samaai passed away on Friday morning.
He was 92.
Samaai, one of seven brothers, was born in the Western Cape in 1927. He was known for his big forehand, fearsome serves, his court speed, his enviable back hand, balance, excellent anticipation and impeccable net play. He retained the South African singles championship for 21 years.
Samaai was also a prolific doubles player and held the South African doubles championship title, with partner Ossie Woodman, for many years.
Despite playing during the apartheid years, Samaai defied the odds stacked against him to play at Wimbledon, the French Open, the Swiss Open and the German Open. In 1999, the Paarl resident received the Presidential Sports Award for lifetime achievements in tennis.
He also became the vice-chairperson of the South African Tennis Association in 1999 and continued to serve his community for many years. On Heritage Day 2018, at the age of 91, he was inducted into the Sports Legends Hall of Fame – along with 21 of the Western Cape’s sports stars.
Tennis South Africa (TSA) vice-president Riad Davids said Samaai would be forever remembered in the hearts of tennis fans across South Africa.
“I knew of David throughout my youth and revered him as a living legend. I met him in 2002 at an Under 10 Tournaments in the Western Cape. Wow, what an unassuming individual. He did not try to show off his status – rather he was calm, kind and endearing to everyone he met or conversed with. We will always remember him on court, with about 20 young children all copying his smile while coaching,” commented Davids.
TSA president, Gavin Crookes has also reflected on the life of a true gentleman of the game.
“The passing of David is closure to a remarkable life of achievement, despite the adverse circumstances in which he grew up and played the game of tennis he so loved. His knowledge of the game of tennis was legend. He was always happy and enthusiastic to share this expertise. I am aware of many he mentored, and they are richer for this guidance.”
“David was at all times humble, gracious, caring and of course passionate about the game of tennis. The expression “true gentleman” is often insincere. In David’s case it is a perfect description and a genuine and richly deserved compliment for someone who served both tennis and the tennis family with distinction. Thank you, David. Go well,” concluded Crookes.