Tennis

What Tennis SA’s ITF Junior Grade A Event Award Means for Young African Tennis Players

Mbali Langa - top seed for the Wilson R100 000 Challenge

In what is a welcome boost for young African tennis players, the International Tennis Federation has awarded Tennis South Africa (TSA) the rights to host a high-profile and prestigious ITF Junior Grade A tournament. The TSA award of Junior ITF Grade A tournament, which occurred in November, 2018 will see many young African tennis players play for valuable ranking points close to home.  This means a lot for the development of young African tennis players, and Richard Glover, president of TSA, while reacting to the announcement, said to newsmen; “this new Grade A event provides a wonderful platform for some of our rising junior stars to test themselves against the world’s best without having to travel outside Africa.”

Richard Glover speaking during the announcement of a new BNP Paribas partnership

Currently, there are only five Grade A events played globally, aside from the Junior Grand Slams. They are hosted in Mexico, Japan, Italy, the USA and Brazil, and carry the highest ranking points on the ITF Junior circuit. While confirming the Grade A event to TSA, the ITF  mentioned that the even will consolidate TSA’s youth development programmes, and has set the games for the second half of 2019.

Tennis SA President, Richard Glover with young tennis players

The valuable ranking points up for grabs will spur the likes of Henning Philip of South Africa, who is currently ranked 69th in the Junior ITF tour, to have a great run in the tournament with home support. The exposure of young African tennis players to such high-level competitions will also aid their development.

PHOTO: Tennis SA (Philip Henning)

Kilani Yassir of Morocco is the only other male Tennis player in the ITF junior ranking at 89th. Nahiman Sada of Burundi is the only top 100 ranked African female U18 player following Diae ElJardi of Morocco’s drop off from the top 100, following a string of bad results. Some of these players will expect to gain more points and rise to better positions when they play in familiar territory.

Right-handed Chun Hsin Tseng started playing tennis at age 5

Chinese Taipei, Tseng Chun Hsin ended the year as the highest ranked male U18 player while Youth Olympic Games champion, Hugo Gaston of France ranked second. Argentina’s Sebastian Baez, Bulgaria’s Adrian Andrew and 2018 Junior Masters finalist Brandon Nakashima of the USA round up the male top five; while Clara Burel of France is the highest ranked female U18 player for the year. She is followed by China’s Wang Xiyu, Denmark’s Clara Tauson, Colombia’s Osario Serrano and C. Gauff of the USA in the top five female rankings respectively. Many of these players all have their paths mapped from very young training journeys to playing at local tournaments and ITF youth games, subsequently.

Mbali Langa – top seed for the Wilson R100 000 Challenge

South African junior tennis player, Mbali Langa in a recent interview had this to say about the award – “I’m really excited about the news and the tournament that will be coming here next year. It is a great way to start living my dream, and most importantly to grow in the sport. I look forward to playing in this tournament and get more international exposure. I’m extremely excited to be part of these exciting times of tennis.”

Many other African junior tennis players will see this news a welcome development and huge opportunity. The event will be the flagship of other ITF Junior Grade events in Africa, and the continent’s junior players will look to seize this opportunity to improve their game and vie for precious ranking points. Every tennis lover in Africa is hopeful this award will be the launch pad for increased development of African tennis and building of more future Wimbledon hopefuls.

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