TENNIS Zimbabwe will next month send 11 junior players for the International Tennis Federation Southern African Junior championships to be held in Namibia. The championships are set to run from January 6 to 12 with participants taking part in the Under-12, Under-14 and Under-16 boys and girls categories.
In the Under-16 boys Zimbabwe will be represented by Julius Mutetwa and Alwyn Mushonga while top seed Nicole Dzenga and Keren Muswere will battle it out for honours in the girls section.
Mehluli Sibanda and Batsirai Saurombe will compete in the Under-14 boys and for the girls, Karen Machisa will team up with Kimberly Bhunu.
In the Under-12, Zimbabwe will field three players with Tinashe Hwata and Valentine Munyawiri competing in the boys section while Annett Matumba is the sole representative in the girls category.
Each country is allowed to field three players only in this age group.
The top seven players in each age group will progress to the African Junior Championships finals scheduled for April in Kenya.
TZ administrator, Cliff Nhokwara said they expect all the players to put up their best performances and progress to the finals set for Kenya.
"We obviously hope all players are quite good and strong for the zonal tournament. I am sure all our players will qualify for the finals to be held in Kenya in April, if not 75 percent of the team will progress to the finals.
"Last year eight out of the 11 players we sent qualified for the finals held in Cairo, Egypt so I think we can have the same number of players next year. We do not expect anything less than that," said Nhokwara.
The team will miss out on the New Winners tournament to be held at Harare Sports Club from January 3 to 6, which is usually used by teams going for the zonal tournament as part of their preparations. Nhokwara said it is unfortunate that the two tournaments have clashed but insisted that the development would not affect the team since they are always working with coaches at their respective bases.
"It won't necessarily affect them because today (yesterday) I am in the office and our courts were full with players playing before the rains started, those that are going to take part in the New Winners and those that are travelling.
"We did not take a break except for two days. Everyone has been busy and even during the holiday, for a tennis player they have to keep on training every day.
"They have their training programmes and for those that are in Mutare they are working with our coach Freeman Nyamunokora and those in Bulawayo are working with coaches based there while the players in Harare are preparing with the travelling coaches because they are based here," said Nhokwara. The players were selected according to their rankings and the top two players in each group made it into the team. They are set to leave for Namibia on January 3 accompanied by coaches, Linsent Chitiyo and Miracle Matanga.