Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
TENNIS Zimbabwe administrator Cliff Nhokwara says they are optimistic of their development initiatives with three Under-14 boys set to represent the country at the African Junior Teams championships in Hammamet, Tunisia.
The championships are set to run from June 25 to 30, but before that, participating players will take part in the ITF/CAT African Junior tournament 14-and-Under starting today.
Zimbabwe will be represented by Ethan Sibanda, Michael Happy and Benedict Badza.
The trio qualified for the team event during the Africa Junior Championships that took place in South Africa, in April.
They are already in Tunisia where they will also take part in the ITF/CAT tournament, which is a warm up to the main event.
The tournament runs until Sunday.
Nhokwara said it’s been a couple of years since they had their Under-14s taking part in the African Junior Teams championships and believes their participation is a positive development.
“It means our development programme is not very far off from what the other African countries are doing.
‘’We also have the 12-and-Under boys who also qualified, the girls 12-and-Under are on alternate for another African championships.
“So, in terms of development, we are okay as far as juniors are concerned,” said Nhokwara.
Miracle Matanaga is the accompanying coach. While they have the numbers at junior level, Nhokwara acknowledges they still need to work on ensuring continuity beyond junior level.
“We need to work more beyond 16 to 18 (age-groups) to produce the world class players that we need to have,” said Nhokwara.
Meanwhile, Benjamin Lock’s exploits during the International Tennis Federation Futures Old Mutual Series that ended last Saturday, has seen him reaching his career high doubles ranking of 206. Lock, together with his young brother Courtney, won three straight doubles titles during the three tournaments held consecutively at Harare Sports Club.
He also won a singles title in the first week and reached the finals of the last event where he lost to fellow countryman Takanyi Garanganga.
The Futures events also saw upcoming players, Mehluli Sibanda and Mark Chigaazira picking some points.
Nhokwara said they are pleased to see local players taking advantage of the tournaments to improve their game and rankings to have better chances at bigger events.