The Francistown School of Tennis has just completed an international tour that took the best players from the now renown Tennis Institution to the Orapa Junior Tournament (21-22 August), the Midlands Junior Open in Gweru, Zimbabwe (24-26 August), and the Daveyton Tennis Y-Tex Tournament in Benoni, South Africa (28-30 August).
After bringing 11 medals (including 5 Titles) from Orapa, the rising stars were expected to confirm in Zimbabwe before facing a tougher competition in South Africa. They did not disappoint the School of Tennis Director Dominique Raguin—who had circled the Midlands Junior Open in red on his calendar—since the 10 players taken to Zimbabwe brought no less than six titles (in Singles, Ntungamili & Naledi Raguin won the U-10 Orange Balls boys and U-10 Green Balls girls respectively while Mark Nawa won the U-10 Green Balls boys; in Doubles, Ntungamili Raguin/Mwaita Mukudu won the U-10 Orange balls boys; Mark Nawa/Tendai (Mantas) won the U-10 Green Balls boys; and Lesedi Raguin/Denzel Seetso (Mantas) won the U12 Boys).
Naledi left a strong impression in the Midlands and was the talk of the day around the courts. While watching 8-year-old Naledi beating a 10-year-old in the U10 singles final, a mother put it in these words: “This little girl is amazing! Technically, physically, and mentally, she is a level above everybody else in this tournament; she has the potential to go very high!”
Leaving Gweru for Benoni, on the outskirts of Johannesburg, the Francistowners were slightly worried at the competition they would face in the big South African Metropolis. “South Africa is another world when it comes to tennis, [shared Lesedi before leaving Francistown]; over there, players are a lot stronger physically, better technically, and confident in their abilities so it is hard to destabilise them.”
While Naledi was expected to confirm her outstanding performance in Gweru, it is yet another player from the Francistown School of Tennis, Mark Nawa, who marked the minds: at only 9 years old, Mark won the 10 and Under Tournament in Singles AND Doubles, leading spectators and competitors alike to question him about his club and training habits. When asked how he was training, young Mark, “Marco Polo” as his teammates call him, simply responded: “I just enjoy my tennis. I know that thanks to Kumon and the School of Tennis homework program, things got a lot easier for me at school so I make sure I always get to the School of Tennis on time and do my best at whatever I am asked to do. This was my first time in South Africa and I am proud I won this tournament! I hope we will come here again soon!”
All eyes are now focused on the upcoming TATI NICKEL YOUNG STARS, a tournament aimed at bringing the best 10 year old players from Botswana and neighbouring countries to Francistown in a high-level tournament that will give competitive exposure to Batswana players. Sponsored by Tati Nickel Mine, the TATI NICKEL YOUNG STARS promises to be a step in the right direction to develop international players for Botswana starting from grassroots level. According to Dominique Raguin, Director of the Francistown School of Tennis, “It is thanks to companies like Tati Nickel Mine supporting this type of events that we will be able to develop international sport players in the long term.”