Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
TENNIS Zimbabwe president Martin Lock has said efforts being put into nurturing young talent in the country are beginning to pay dividends. Most of the players that participated in the ITF/CAT Southern African Individual and Team Junior Championships recently qualified for the Africa Junior Championships. The tournament in Windhoek, Namibia, mainly for 14-and-Under and 16-and-Under players saw the young participants playing for points as well as qualification for the AJC.
Initial indications were that 11 players would take part but Zimbabwe ended up having 12 players and, at least, nine of them automatically qualified for the AJC after they finished in the top eight.
Lock said it was one of the best performances by the local juniors in the recent years.
“I think for starters, this year is one of the best performances we have had in quite a few years of our juniors and it’s certainly the highest number of players that we have had qualifying for the Africa Junior Champs,” said Lock. The championships are expected to be held between March and April. Lock attributed the good outing to the effort being put in by coaches in nurturing young talent before adding that they will try and expose the players to more game time ahead of the championships.
“We have got very highly qualified coaches in Zimbabwe and they have been putting in a lot of time and effort with our juniors.
‘’And it’s really encouraging to see that all those efforts are starting to bear fruit… And it just shows what we can produce with developing structures in place.
“I think we have got to look seriously at arranging competitive matches for them. We also do have training camps scheduled throughout the year and we will probably try and have a training camp before AJC,” said Lock.
Lock also acknowledged the support coming from parents to complement their efforts with the juniors.
Some of the top performances by the young players came from Rufaro Magarira, who won the girls Under-16 event, and Tinaye Badza, who reached the finals in the boys Under-14. Miracle Matanga, who accompanied the players, concurred that the players need to maintain the momentum. “Personally I think they did so well considering that everyone played so well although there are some that failed to make it. But talking about the team, I think we had a great tour.
“Basically I think what I would suggest, if the players maybe with the help of the association if they have a structure in place (for the players) to keep up with the intensity because we are looking at the level they have played.
“If they are to break for even a couple of weeks then the level is going to be gone. So I am saying maintain the form.
‘’They should play more matches, if only we had tournaments in-between for them to keep the form until they go for the AJC.
“And, also, maybe their training because when they go for the AJC they are going as a team as well, so if only we had structures which actually involve them training together keeping up the team as it was as well,” said Matanga.
source: the herald