ZIMBABWEAN junior tennis players found the going tough at this year’s edition of the Southern African Junior Championship held in Botswana, finishing a disappointing fourth at the zonal qualifiers for the prestigious African Junior Championships (AJC) to be held in Tunisia in March.
The regional tournament which was held at the National Tennis Centre in Gaborone attracted junior tennis players from 11 Southern African countries in the Under-16, U-14 and U-12 age categories.
South Africa were crowned the eventual winners in the team trophy competition with Mauritius and Madagascar finishing second and third respectively, while last year’s runners-up Zimbabwe settled for fourth position.
Zimbabwe’s best performances in the singles competition came from Beverly Matsiwe and Chelsea Dzenga who reached the semi-finals of the girls’ Under-16 and Under-14 singles competitions respectively.
Mehluli Sibanda (Under-16 boys), Munashe Kaome (Under-16 girls), Nandi Munyulwa (Under-14 girls) and Valentine Munyaviri (Under-14 boys) automatically booked tickets to the AJC finals by virtue of reaching the singles quarter-finals in their age groups.
Tennis Zimbabwe administrator Cliff Nhokwara said while they could have done better in the team trophy competition, they were pleased with individual performances of some of the players.
“It was a decent performance by the youngsters, unfortunately we didn’t perform as well as we would have wanted, but there were some good results by some of the players,” Nhokwara said.
“We had six players qualifying for the AJC finals by virtue of reaching the singles quarter-finals. However, the number could increase as we expect other players from the team to qualify. We had our Under -14 girls’ team of Chelsea Dzenga and Nandi Munyulwa reaching the final which was a good result.”
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s leading female tennis player Cara Black looks set to face her former doubles partner Sania Mirza of India at the ongoing Australian Open.
Black and her new playing partner Saisai Zheng from China will face the pair of Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski Alicja Rosolska from Poland in the first round later this week.
Should they clear the first hurdle in the first round, they will square off against the second seeds Mirza and China’s Su-Wei Heish in the second round.