Zimbabwe’s premier tennis tournament, NetOne Zimbabwe Open tennis championship is set to reclaim its billing as the country’s biggest tennis tournament as Tennis Zimbabwe (TZ) were currently awaiting confirmation from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to have the tournament get Futures Circuit status.
The latest move could see the tournament attracting players from beyond the country’s borders because of the availability of ITF rankings points and improved prize money.
In an interview with NewsDay Sport, TZ administrator Cliff Nhokwara confirmed that his association had approached the ITF and was only waiting for their response.
The latest move to have the tournament recognised by the ITF was necessitated by TZ’s hope to bridge to gap between juniors and seniors as the tournament would enable participants to acquire ITF ranking points.
“I can confirm that the NetOne Zimbabwe Open tournament is on this year. A deal has already been struck with the main sponsors NetOne and the tournament is set to be bigger.
“Tennis Zimbabwe has approached ITF with the hope of having the tournament as part of the ITF Futures Circuit.
“At the moment we are only waiting for feedback from ITF, but we are expecting a positive response as we have successfully hosted tournaments on the ITF Junior Circuit recently.
“If we manage to host an ITF Futures tournament in the country it would be a huge boost for us as we have realised the need to bridge the gap between the juniors and senior tournaments,” said Nhokwara.
Nhokwara could, however, not be drawn into revealing the prize fund for the tournament, although NewsDay Sport understood that it was going to be between $10 000- $15 000.
The ITF introduced Futures tournaments in the late 1990s, allowing for greater flexibility in the organisation of the tournaments for national associations, and participation for players.
The prize fund for each Futures tournament is either $10 000 or $15 000 which is well in reach of the $10 000 NetOne poured in last year’s tournament.
The country’s top junior tennis players Benjamin Lock and Valeria Bhunu won the men and womens’ titles respectively last year in a tournament in which the entry list was dominated by junior players.