Barry Silah @obel_barry
Regional junior tennis players will benefit immensely following the opening of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Training Centre in Nairobi.
The facility is one among the three that ITF runs in the world alongside Morocco and Fiji and hosts 16 players below 18 years from six different African countries. In 2017, the ITF East Africa Training Centre was shifted to Kenya from Burundi following political turmoil in the country and development officer Thierry Ntwali is optimistic the facility will boost the standards of tennis in the region.
“Kenya is centrally placed with good altitude which is a huge advantage. The players can gain a lot also from our three top coaches and the excellent infrastructure in place.
This centre has brought back lots of interest in the sport even locally and huge recognition goes to Confederation of African Tennis for making this project successful,” said Ntwali.
Kenyan starlet Angella Okutoyi, 14, who has a ranking of 594 in the world and 17-year-old Burundian Abdoul Shakur Kabura ranked 247 are some of the graduates of the training centre, having honed their skills while the facility was in Burundi.
The skills learnt have been on the show as Okutoyi, who joined the centre in 2014, is a regular Kenya Federations Cup team member and Kenya captain Ryan Randiek, a 2017 ITF Nairobi Junior Open quarter-finalist, believes the facility will help regional tennis in the long term.
“We have targets as individuals and as a team. We are thankful to ITF for this centre because it is going to be home to future stars and we are honing our skills to international standards so that we can compete with the best,” said Randiek.
Ntwali and his team’s work at the centre has already yielded much in the last one year including five ITF circuit singles titles, eight ITF circuit double crowns, two 14 and under Confederation of African Tennis diadems in doubles, nine runner-up medals in singles, ITF Junior circuit and two in doubles.
Most of the players at the centre are also currently ranked in the top 1000 in the world. “Most of these players have climbed rankings since last year and this is because of the wholesome training they acquire.
We are training these young people beyond sport including dealing with character and attitude,” said head coach Francis Rogoi. The centre, which has a full-time physiotherapist, mental coach and fitness trainer, also imparts specialised school lessons to the players.