Cape Town - "Overnight," says former South African Davis Cup player, Jeff Coetzee, "Colombia has become a tennis-mad country."
This after the South American country's closely-knit doubles twins, Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, added the US Open title at Flushing Meadows to their recent triumph at Wimbledon - and, in the process, completed a runaway lead as the top pairing in the world.
Coetzee, of course, is something of a mastermind behind the striking elevation of the Colombians this year after taking over as their coach some six years ago when they were no more than moderately-placed in the 50s in the doubles rankings and relatively unknown in the top echelon of world players.
"But after the Wimbledon victory and now even more so after completing victory in a tense, see-sawing 6-4, 7-5 final win in the New York tournament, Juan Sebastian and Robert are receiving the kind of acclaim usually reserved for soccer players,"' says Coetzee, "and I have been drawn into the celebrations as something of an honorary Colombian."
Asked to explain the dramatic rise of the Colombian pair after steady, consistent progress towards a top 10 ranking over the past three or four years, Coetzee, himself a top 12 world doubles performer during his playing career, said it had not come about by accident.
"When they first approached me," added Coetzee, "I must admit I had never met them and hardly knew who they were. But they said they had seen me in action and believed I could assist them achieving the tennis ambitions they had shared since the days they had grown up as youngsters together - and furthermore they were prepared to make all the sacrifices needed to make it to the top."
"This included strict dieting, mental training, a strong work ethic and dehydration procedures to achieve a maximum level of fitness - but more than anything I believe the uncanny understanding on the court achieved through their long friendship has been the key factor in the culmination of this year's achievements."
The gripping 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (8/6), 6-7 (5/7), 6-3 epic win over French couple Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin in 4hr 56min was not only the second longest doubles final in Wimbledon history, but one of the most memorable of the event.
"And it was little different, with the advantage switching from one pair to the other in the New York cauldron, with the Cabal and Farah having to win key points with amazing rapport to eke out a victory," said Coetzee.
He revealed his ongoing agreement with the Colombian charges is to spend 25 weeks in the year with them, including the periods in which the four Grand Slams and all other major tournaments are staged.
As for the rest, he spends much of his time with his family in Cape Town that he still regards as home, attending to the tennis academies he has launched and coaching promising young prospects - as well as assisting Tennis South Africa in sundry projects when asked.