Sunday, October 25, 2020

Rising tennis star eyes “The Slams”

Local Junior tennis player, Refilwe Youri has set her eyes on competing in the World Tennis Federation (WTF) tournaments and the Grand Slams.

The local lass, who is currently training at the Barcelona Tennis Academy in Barcelona, Spain says her ambition is to accrue points in international championships to enable her to compete at professional level.

Her recent international achievements include; a winner in Catalonia tournament at Spain, September 2019, winner in grade three U18 tournament in the UK, in December 2019 and a winner in the grade four U18 tournament in January early this year.

Youri first made headlines when she came in second position in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Under 14 (U14) doubles tournaments in Mauritius in 2018.

Her other achievements include reaching the second round in both the South Africa and Zimbabwe ITF championships last year.

The rising local tennis star also competed in the U14 Botswana team in Africa Junior Championship in January 2018, finishing 9th in singles and reaching semi-finals in doubles.

“I would love to represent Botswana at Wimbledon one day,” Youri, who cites tennis great Serena Williams as her role model says.

“My greatest ambition is to play in grand slams and WTF events. I have no specific difficult opponent as such but consistent players can be a challenge,” she says.

Youri, who describes her game as ‘more offensive and aggressive’ says since relocating to train in Spain, she is now ‘more independent and confident as a player.’

Like all other budding sports stars, the 15-year-old says she has to juggle her training and academics.

“I am currently enrolled with the Wolsey Hall College home schooling program. This allows me to train and play tennis without compromising my education,” she explains.

Asked about her journey, Youri had this to say; “I started playing tennis aged three years when I went with my father for my older brother ‘s tennis lessons.” 

“My great achievement so far was being runner up in a Under 14 doubles of tournament in Mauritius in 2018. It was great experience with older and more experienced players,” she says.

Part of the Botswana Tennis Association (BTA) development programs, the road has not been all smooth for Youri.

With local sports struggling for funding, Youri, like many other aspiring sports stars has had ‘to hustle for sponsorship or funding to find more tournament opportunities.’ 

The lass, who has now won 4 regional tournaments since relocating to Spain, says ‘her main challenge is lack of funding to support her training.’ 

She says it is critical for her to get sponsorship as that will allow her to play in as many tournaments as she would want to.

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