ONLY increased funding will see Zimbabwe producing world-class tennis players again, leading coach Claudio Murape said.
Mupare made the remarks this week as he prepared to lead a local junior team to the ongoing Confederations of African tennis tournament which started yesterday in Pretoria, South Africa.
“There is potential in all the youngsters, all of them are capable of following in the footsteps of the likes of the Black siblings,” Murape said.
“The major problem comes with the issue of money. Can the player afford to play outside the African continent, and can the player manage to source sponsorship to play in international tournaments? The encouraging thing is that the talent is there, but without money the talent will go to waste.”
Tennis is regarded as a “rich man’s sport” worldwide because it is self-sponsored. Players themselves and families, rather than national boards, usually have to bankroll their own development.
Popularly known in tennis circles as the IFT Card championship, the Pretoria tournament is one of the major tennis tournaments in Africa. It showcases the leading young players on the continent, with almost all countries from the Sadc region taking part.
Zimbabwean teams have generally excelled in the event, which is running for the third successive time. This year’s group consists of the best Under 14 and Under 16 players in the country.
Murape, who also stood as the Zimbabwe Davis Cup non-playing captain in its later stages of top-level participation, expressed confidence in his young charges, the majority of whom already play at academies in South Africa.
“I am confident the youngsters will produce good results. In the past all Zimbabweans who played in this tournament have won medals and have qualified for the zonal competitions, so why not this team?” he asked. “I have a team of eight young players, four boys and four girls. They will all bring back medals; all of them have a 70% chance of qualifying.”
The top players from the tournament will qualify for the African Junior Championships set for April in Morocco.
BY KUDZAYI TIGERE