Thomas Hogstedt has now taken both of them under his wing. The Swede, who has guided the likes of Maria Sharapova, Li Na and Caroline Wozniacki, was invited by Tennis South Africa to conduct a clinic in Stellenbosch last November. There he came across the then 10-year-old Zoe Kruger. She immediately caught his eye. “I saw from the first day I could transform Zoe Kruger into one of the best players in the world,” says Hogstedt.
He then discovered that Kruger, who comes from Pretoria, has an equally talented younger sister, Isabella, who is just eight years old. Hogstedt has an ability to recognise what it takes to turn a pre-teenager into a champion as he proved when coaching Wozniacki as a 13-year-old. He took her to No 1 in the world.
“Zoe plays an aggressive game from the baseline but she can play with high spin and angles. She also likes to come to the net and serves well so she has a great all-around game and has a liking for all surfaces. Isabella reminds me of Martina Hingis. She plays a very fast, flat game and has great feel for the ball. Her favourite shot is the volley but she also hits a very good drop shot,” says Hogstedt.
Hogstedt comes to South Africa whenever he is able but has a coaching team who work with the girls when he can’t travel. The girls also go to Hogstedt’s facility in Sweden for training camps and he and his coaching team travel with the girls when they play on the international circuit.
Zoe has no peers in her age group in South Africa which she demonstrated by winning the SA National Under-12 Championship when she was just 10 years old. Last month she reached the final of an Under-12 tournament in Canada, winning five of her six matches. “She has worked fantastically during the time since we met. When we started in November she lost to the No 42 in Canada and a month ago she beat the Canadian No 1,” says Hogstedt.