Botswana tennis players suffered another defeat at the hands of their hyper-charged African counterparts in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and Confederation of African Championships that ended today (Sunday).
In their quest to keep medals in their own backyard, all the 24 players fared badly as they were eliminated in the first and second rounds of the prestigious tournament. The International Junior Championships of Botswana ended on March 23 with some doubles and the singles finals being played on March 23 and March 24.
Compared to the International Junior Championships of Botswana, in the 31st ITF/CAT African Junior Championships, the inspired local players were off to a good start with four of them sailing through to the second round. The future looked bright as Thabiso Mabaka in the Under 18 Boys Singles demolished Hassani Murisho of Burundi 6-3 6-3 followed by Matshidiso Malope in the same category who beat Kokou Missodey of Togo 7-5 3.
In the Under 16 Boys Singles, Lame Botshoma dismissed Fuad Quadri of Nigeria while Katlego Gouwe thumped Vialet Peter of Tanzania 6-2 6-2 in the Under 16 Girls Singles.
Botswana pinned its hopes on these promising players. But the local players’ counterparts, particularly South Africans who could not allow any complacency creeping into their camp, were too much for the local lads as none of Botswana’s players sailed through to the quarter finals that were held on March 25. South Africans who were dazzling dominated the competition, winning both the Under 18 categories with Nikala Scholtz and Monica Gorny winning the Boys & Girls singles respectively. In the Boys Under 14 singles, Wayne Montgomery won followed by another South African Marc Van Der Merwe. South Africans continued to consolidate their dominance in the tournament as Monica Gorny and Bianca Swanepoel attained position one and two in the girls Under 16 category respectively. Players from other African countries who made their presence felt were Moroccan Amina El Khattabi, who topped the girls Under 16, followed by Mora Eshak and Noura Abdul Aal of Egypt in the same category.
Seif Sherbini of Egypt obtained first position in the boys Under 16 followed by Nigerian Samuel Omoile and another Egyptian Omar Elkhesen.
In the boys Under 18 category, Zimbabwean’s promising player, Mbonisi Ndimande, who was a sight to behold in last year’s competition, scooped position two, followed by Takanyi Garanganga, while the first position was won by Scholtz of South Africa.
In an interview, the Botswana Tennis Association (BTA) development officer, Tuelo Serufho, acknowledged that the tournament was not a walk in the park.
“Realistically speaking, the odds were staked against us. We have learnt that we still have a long way to go,” he said.
The BTA development officer was adamant that, despite the fact that the players were knocked out early, they were able to reap the benefits as the hosts.
“Despite some poor performances, there were some benefits that we got. We would not have fielded more than five players if we were not the hosts. And, as a result, many of our players got international exposure,” he said.
By hosting the tournament, Serufho added, they were able to take tennis in Botswana to the people. Serufho also added that the performance of the local players compared to last year has improved drastically. He cited a considerable number of factors that could have hampered Botswana players’ success. He attributed the players’ poor performance to, among others, lack of adequate training facilities and insufficient skilled personnel.
“We do not have advanced training facilities. For instance, in South Africa, they have the High Performance Centre in Pretoria. Our players, in terms of techniques, are not different from the South African, Egyptian and Moroccan players. But they need physical and psychological fitness,” he said, adding that some players do not have enough time to train due to other commitments such as academic and school competitions.