ITF Junior Tennis Tournament impresses …over 100 int’l players

Zani Barnard under pressure as she returns a slicing backhand.

WINDHOEK – There was nothing but grueling action during the finals of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Junior Tournament, which took place at the Central Tennis Park in Olympia in the capital over the past weekend.

The tournament attracted more than 100 players from as far as India, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Germany, Belgium and Great Britain. Neighbouring South Africa had the largest and strongest contingent of players, once again demonstrating how attractive the Windhoek ITF tournament has become to international junior players. The five Namibian girls and seven boys who had made it into the main draw were once more tested to their limits during the competitive event. All of them lost their matches in the opening first round. Namibian top player Juliane Schuckmann however put up a great fight against 3rd seeded Nadine de Villiers who is currently ranked 458 on the global ITF ranking list. Juliane lost the first set 5:7 and the second one 4:6.  

In the boys final played on Saturday, 4th seeded JD Malan and 3rd seeded Francois Kellerman locked horns in a thrilling final that had spectators on the edge of their seats. On his way to the final, Kellerman had beaten No 1 seed Courtney Lock 6:4; 6:2 in the semis, while last week’s tournament champion JD Malan defeated Okkie Kellerman 6:3; 1:6; 6:3 to reach the final. Francois Kellerman, an U-18 South African champion, was in no mood to compromise and went on to trounce JD Malan in straight sets 6:3; 6:1. Francois heavily benefited from many of his opponent’s unforced errors and would double his action with accurate ground strokes, with versatile net play, breaking the rhythm of his opponent everytime.  

The girl’s final played on Friday morning saw a surprise winner, left-handed Katie Poluta from South Africa, who prevailed in a highly contested match 3:6; 6:4; 6:4 over Zani Barnard. The girls double on Friday saw Nadine de Villiers and Katie Poluta beating Ciney Bekker and Sophie Gerits 6:3; 6:2. The boys doubles title again went to the Kellerman twins, who defeated Hubert Badenhorst and Dylan Foo-Kune 6-1, 6-3 in straight sets. International ITF referee Pieter Hoeksma thanked the ball boys from the NTA FNB development programme for a sterling job. “I will be happy to be here next year again. 

South Africa can still learn from Namibia in terms of press coverage and looking after the players’ well-being during a tournament,” he said. Bob Mould, president of the Namibia Tennis Association (NTA), observed that this year’s two ITF tournaments showed a number of improvements. He specifically mentioned the enthusiasm of players, the performance of chair umpires and the recently upgraded courts, which now meet international standards. 

By Staff Reporter


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