The making of Federers

The making of Federers

MASERU – On Monday some of the world’s finest youth tennis talent converged in Maseru as the Lesotho ITF (International Tennis Federation) Junior Open got underway at the national courts.

It is, for all intents and purposes, a big deal. The Under-18 ranking competition is part of the ITF Junior Circuit, a series of international tennis tournaments which give players the opportunity to measure themselves against top prospects from other nations and provide experience of international competition as junior players begin their transitions into professional careers.

For this event 11 countries – Brazil, Great Britain, Germany, India, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Republic of South Africa, Serbia, United States of America and Zimbabwe – have joined hosts Lesotho as youthful starlets battle it out until Friday for precious ITF ranking points.

As they go through their paces, all dream of one day reaching the pinnacle of the sport – playing on the professional tour and winning grand slam titles.
The blueprint to follow is there.

Former year-end champions of the ITF Junior Circuit that have gone on to achieve success on the pro tour include grand slam winners Ivan Lendl, Pat Cash, Martina Hingis, Amélie Mauresmo and Roger Federer and this week’s experience in Maseru is a unique chance, especially for Lesotho’s hopefuls – Mphalleng Sempe, Lehlohonolo Motsamai, ‘Manyama Maisa, Kekeletso Moseme, Teboho Morake, Thaane ‘Mokose and Karabelo Thite.
Good displays here could open doors for bright futures in the game.

It is a fact not lost on Lesotho Young Tennis Association (LYTA) president, Kamohelo Hlomisi, who hopes the tournament will inspire a future generation of local tennis stars.
“Tennis is international and this competition will make all Basotho children aware they can play at the international level,” he said.

“It is not often we host such tournaments in Lesotho, all I can say is that Lesotho has children who love tennis and who want to go far with it.”
As Hlomisi outlines, the Lesotho Junior Open offers the country’s seven competing hopefuls an opportunity to compete in future international tournaments if they gain points this week.

“It is difficult to compete internationally,” Hlomisi said.
“This is the (local) players’ first time to compete internationally and they are competing against highly-ranked competitors, some of which are ranked number three internationally. Our players have a chance to gain exposure while playing with such experienced players.”

Indeed, it is not every day Lesotho hosts tournaments such as this. The last time the country hosted a global tennis event was in 2004 and the glaring fact is Lesotho needs more events to energise the sport’s development.

Mohloai Mpesi

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