South Africa Win Qualfying Leg of Rod Laver Junior Challenge
After a break of three years thanks to Covid, the IC Rod Laver Worldwide junior challenge is up and running again. Qualifying takes place this year on five continents with the winners going through to the finals which are to be held in California in November 2023.
We once again staged the African qualifying event with the hope initially that we could assemble more teams and with the aim of improving the quality of play. We had extended invitations to Israel and Ethiopia but, sadly, the cost of airfares prohibited them from accepting. We had also invited Zimbabwe but due to the extremely poor economic conditions there, they too were unable to accept.
However, we were able to welcome both Madagascar and Namibia both of whom had played before, but not for far too long. So, along with the IC SA team and a team from the Tennis SA Development hubs, we had four teams competing. As expected, the IC SA and Madagascar teams were far too strong for both the others, so it left these two to battle out for the prestige and honour of representing Africa in the final.
It was a final befitting the occasion. It was the most closely contested final on record with some long intriguing matches where a point here and there could have gone the other way and made a different result possible. The two girls singles were split but then the IC SA boys took charge winning both their matches. It was left to the girls to win their doubles and IC SA were through to the final.
Having Madagascar here improved the quality of the final but sadly, both the other teams were outclassed. It must be stated that the Tennis SA Development team showed a marked improvement in quality and ability than the similar team of three years ago. This proves that the work being done in the local townships where these Development hubs are staged, is bearing fruit. Long may this annual improvement continue. They beat Namibia convincingly on the last day.
Namibia, sadly, have very little opportunity to have quality tennis in their country. With just two major towns, and the vast distances they must travel, it his holding back any meaningful progress despite players showing class and ability. However, if keenness was a yard stick, they would be a top playing country.
We held a hugely successful clinic on the Saturday morning having invited players from 8-10 years to come along from local townships, and we had 34 children and 5 coaches. With qualified coaches to run the clinic plus the team players from the competing teams, they were shown the benefit of warming up and stretching. This was followed by Play and Stay exercises ending with some fun games. Nando’s kindly gave the kids a chicken lunch.
It was a huge pleasure for us to stage this event and with Israel being the only other IC member on the continent, we are delighted to ensure that Africa is represented in the finals.
So, congratulations to the IC SA team in qualifying and to Madagascar for making the final a truly worthy occasion.