Johannesburg: Former tennis champion Bob Hewitt will be jailed in South Africa after losing an appeal yesterday against a six-year sentence for raping young girls he coached decades ago.

Bob Hewitt 

Australia-born Hewitt, 76, was convicted last year of raping two girls aged 12 and 13 in the early 1980s, and of indecently assaulting a 17-year-old girl in 1994. Supreme Court of Appeal judges said they had considered Hewitt’s advanced age, but decided “it is not a bar to a sentence of imprisonment”.

“The sentences fitted the criminal and the crime and fairly balanced the competing interests,” the judges said. A frail-looking Hewitt, who was often accompanied in court by his elderly wife, had pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The appeal court said the former champion, who runs a citrus farm in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, did not suffer from a terminal or incapacitating illness and leads a healthy life.