Tennis team falters at junior championships

Leungo Monnayo returns against Mozambique's Ana Vasilis during the Junior Tennis Tournament on Saturday. Monnayo won 3- 6, 6- 4, 10- 2. PIC KAGISO ONKATSWITSE
Leungo Monnayo returns against Mozambique's Ana Vasilis during the Junior Tennis Tournament on Saturday. Monnayo won 3- 6, 6- 4, 10- 2. PIC KAGISO ONKATSWITSE

The Botswana junior team failed to impress at the ITF/ CAT Southern African Junior Championships, which ended on Saturday at the Notwane tennis courts walking away without a single medal.

The local players failed to reach a single final in all the three age groups, Under-12, 14 and 16.

The pair of Thato Madikwe and Tshegofatso Tsiang tried to stage a winning battle when they progressed to the quarter finals of the girls Under-14 doubles but cam unstuck against Zimbabwe, losing 6-2,6-1. However, Botswana managed to win matches to determine their positions in respective age groups.

Kaone Motlhabane beat Malawi’s Anderson Ndala in a tough encounter of the boys Under 16s singles encounter that ended 7- 6 and 6- 4. Whereas Leungo Monnayo a debutant dismissed Mozambique’s Ana Vasilis 3- 6, 6- 4 and 10- 2 leaving her rival in tears. South Africa won the tournament after bagging nine gold medals while Mauritius came second with Madagascar third. Teams were ranked according to points accumulated. Botswana will know its final position on Tuesday, when the results are announced. Eleven countries took part in the tournament, which serves as a qualifier for the Africa Junior Championships. Tunisia will host the championships in March. 

Botswana coach, Wellington Sibanda said he was impressed by his players’ performance even though they did not win any silverware.

 “ Most of our players are showing great improvement in their performances considering the fact that they do not play in international tournaments that much,” he said. Sibanda said the focus as this stage is to improve performance more than results.

“At the development stages you have to focus much on a player’s performance to improve and develop them then you focus on the results when you have laid the foundation,” said the coach.

He said lack of exposure is a huge blow to his team because they lack game time at different levels. He said the players mostly participate in school and zonal tournaments.  He also said players were lacking mental strength. “The players were starting their matches on a good note but they would fail to maintain their play at the end of the game due to lack of mental fitness. However we are going to help them overcome this weakness.” He said the team was also let down by players who did not report for camp due to unknown reasons. Marang Makubalo one of the outstanding tennis players in the country was part of the players who were absent.

Players that have qualified for the Africa Junior Championships (AJC) will be announced today.

Botswana’s Innocent Tidimane has already qualified for AJC due to his ranking. He is ranked number 384 in Africa.

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