It was all sadness and sorrow on Thursday, for many Batswana who had come in their numbers to watch the African tennis stars squaring up in the 30th Africa junior tennis championships. Thursday was the day for the semifinals and there was no face of a single local player. The last local hopefuls were eliminated in the quarter finals that had been held the previous day. Somehow, it was not surprising because even in previous tournaments, local players bowed out from the word go.
In the semifinals, the tournament was a North African affair. Players from mainly North African countries, like Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, were outstanding and showed the local lads and those from other countries how the game should be won. The only Southern African country that made its presence felt was South Africa. It was, however, evident from the beginning of the tournament that the North Africans meant business because they did not only posses’ deft skills, but they never underestimated their opponents. For Botswana, the results mean that they have to once again go back to the drawing boards and assess their weaknesses.
Despite the dismal showing by Botswana players, technical member of the Botswana Tennis Association, Mthandazo Sibanda, hailed the players’ performances. He said Botswana players were playing against the best in the World and managed to win some of the games.
“Many of these North African players are based in Europe. This obviously means they have exposure at the expense of our players. Even in their respective countries, they play many tournaments all year round. That’s why they are sharper than our players. Generally, I am happy with the overall performance of our players. For the first time in the history of this tournament, we saw some of our local based players winning some of the games. Previously, it was only those based outside the country. This shows that the level of tennis is growing in Botswana,” he said.
Sibanda also said all is not lost because they have learned a lot from the tournament. He said most of the local players are young and if they can carry on with what they displayed at the tournament they can go places. He added that what disadvantages local players is the fact that most of them are not ranked.
On the other hand, one official from Tunisia, Abdul Karil, told The Sunday Standard that Botswana has promising prospects but a lot still needs to be done. He said the most fundamental thing that should be done as a matter of urgency is the erection of many tennis courts. Karil said that what he had seen was not enough if the country is to be competitive world wide.
“Many players from Botswana played brilliantly and even when some of them were knocked out, you could see that they were up for something. Our players always dominate because we have plenty of facilities. This should be the case in Botswana and I can promise you many good players would come through. Also in Tunisia we have tournaments almost on a weekly basis. That is one reason our players are always sharp and have world rankings. We are also close to Europe and that makes it easier for our players to participate in competitive tournaments there,” he said.