Zimbabwe’s premier tennis tournament, the NetOne Zimbabwe Open tennis championship, certainly lived up to its billing as the country’s premier tennis tournament.
But next year’s tournament promises to be much bigger after Tennis Zimbabwe (TZ) revealed they had secured sponsorship to have it on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Futures circuit.
ITF had earlier this year acceded to TZ’s request to have the tournament accorded Futures status, but on condition they run two tournaments one after the other.
TZ, who only had sponsorship from NetOne then, had to shelve the idea as they could not get another sponsor to bankroll the second tournament as required by ITF.
However, speaking after the official presentation ceremony on Sunday TZ vice-president Regis Bhunu confirmed they had sealed a deal with 23rd Century, a locally-based Information and Technology solution provider.
“This year’s tournament was one of the best events we have hosted in recent years although it would have been more satisfying if it had been on the ITF Futures Circuit as we had initially planned,” Bhunu said.
“Hosting a Futures tournament has a number of advantages to our young players, which is why we kept on looking for another sponsor. We have reached a deal with 23rd Century for a tournament next year.”
The ITF Futures circuit is the lowest rung of professional tennis below the Association for Tennis Professionals (ATP) Challengers Tour, the ATP Tour and the pinnacle of professional tennis, the Grand Slam.
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.
Newly-crowned Zimbabwe Tennis Open men’s singles and doubles champion Takanyi Garanganga — based in the United States — recently moved up from the Futures to the Challengers where he hopes to make an impact.
The All-Africa Games gold medalist and two-time former African junior champion said local players would benefit tremendously if Zimbabwe starts hosting tournaments on the Futures Circuit.
“Futures tournaments obviously attract more competitive players and the level is higher, which would give local players the much-needed exposure.
“We definitely have the talent, but for us to nurture and develop it we need to give them the necessary exposure. Hosting Futures tournaments is very crucial in achieving that objective,” said Garanganga.