AFTER taking a Zimbabwe national tennis junior team to the IFT/CAT Southern Africa Championship in South Africa last week, leading coach Claudio Murape says tournaments of that magnitude should also be brought to the country for the purpose of exposure.
â€œTournaments like these should be brought to Zimbabwe so that a lot more of our youngsters can take part,â€ said Murape. â€œIf the tournaments come to a venue closer to home, a lot of people will come to play, watch or just experience the level of competition and atmosphere. It also gives the financially-challenged amongst us a chance to take part, and also inspire onlookers to take up the sport.â€
Sponsors, he said, need to witness the talent first-hand to be able to make commitments.
â€œSponsors want to see results and the talent on display. They want to see if itâ€™s worth putting their money into it.â€
Murapeâ€™s team came second after South Africa in the regionâ€™s flagship junior tennis event. Madagascar, Botswana and Zambia finished third, fourth and fifth respectively.
The IFT/CAT Southern Africa Championship was also used as a qualifying event for the African Junior Championships scheduled for Morocco in April.
Five out of the eight Zimbabweans made it. These were Under 16s Benjamin Loerke, Tendayi Tapfuma and Pauline Chawafambira and Under 14s Ronzai Saurombe and Valeria Bhunu.
â€œUnlike in previous years when we used to have all kids qualifying, only five qualified this time, giving this yearâ€™s team a success rate of around 63%. The simple reason is that the competition was tougher, especially from the South Africans.â€
Murape said the team was outstanding in both singles and doubles.
Â â€œBenjamin Loerke and Valeria Bhunu shone as they both came first in their categories, the Under 16 boys and Under 14 girls respectively. In the Under 16 boys category, Tendayi Tapfuma and Benjamin Loerke were the doubles champions.â€
The five qualifiers now join Under 18 boys Mbonisi Ndimande and Admire Mushonga, and girls Denise Artizinger and Stacey Loerke- who where already through to Morocco.Â The African Junior Championships was used as a springboard by such players as ATP-ranked Takanyi Garanganga, Zimbabweâ€™s reigning Junior Sportsperson of the Year.
BY KUDZAYI TIGERE