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Tennis on the rise as juniors excel

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Zimbabwe tennis players enjoyed a fair amount of success this year as the sport made some strides in re-establishing itself as a powerhouse through emphasis on the juniors.

As Zimbabwe has of late struggled to produce quality players in the Under 18 category for both the girls and boys, it was in the lower age group categories that Zimbabwe found more regional success.

Young Thabile Tshatedi was the first to lift the country’s flag high in Zambia after being crowned the Under-14 International Tennis Federation (ITF)/Central African Tennis (CAT) champion in September.

The 13-year-old was also nominated for the junior sports person of the year category at the Annual National Sports Awards.

When Zimbabwe hosted its own leg of the tournament a month later, 12 year-old Mutare-based Karen Muswere was crowned the Under-12 champion at Harare Sports Club.

Zimbabwe’s biggest disappointment however was the failure to replicate the exploits of Takanyi Garan’anga and Mbonisi Ndimande who won the Under-18 title at the African Junior Championships in 2008 and 2009.

Byron Black won the title in the same category in 1985 and went on to achieve a highest singles ranking of 22 as well as the No. 1 men’s doubles ranking.

However, Zimbabwe’s entry this year young Benjamin Lock reached the semi-finals but will have a second bite of the cherry next year as he will still be eligible to compete.

In the Davis Cup tournament in May, Zimbabwe managed to retain its place in the Africa Zone Group III after finishing fifth at a tournament held in Morocco.

Zimbabwe was represented by young Benjamin Lock, Mark Flynn and Admire Mushonga at the weeklong tournament where they beat Botswana and Ivory Coast before losing to Madagascar.

Zimbabwe’s best performance was reaching the world group quarterfinals in 1998, when it lost to Italy after defeating Australia 3-2 away in the first round.

The NetOne Zimbabwe Open Championship was hosted for the second year in a row after being revived last year and Lock came out tops in the men’s category while Valeria Bhunu was crowned the champion in the women’s category.

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