Botswana Tennis Association (BTA) Under 16 Junior National Team produced a stellar performance at the recent 2021 Under 16 Africa Junior Tennis Championships (AJC) held in Tunis, Tunisia at the weekend. This comes after the team’s substandard performance at the Under 18 championships that were held a week before the under 16 tournament still in Tunisia. The tournament that was contested by all countries across Africa saw Botswana being represented by five players, Denzel Seetso, Mark Nawa (Boys) and Ekua Refilwe Youri, Chelsea Changanyuka and Naledi Raguin (girls) under the guidance of coach Ernest Seleke.
Team Botswana won three medals (two gold and one Bronze) in both boys and girls singles and boys doubles. Youri dominated the girls’ singles categories after winning all her four matches enroute to the final where she won against her Tunis opponent Hiba Heni to win a gold medal for the first time in the AJC. Denzel Seetso settled for a bronze medal in the boys’ singles after he lost to the eventual champion Yasser Hosni Zaki of Egypt in the semi-finals. Seetso and Nawa redeemed themselves in the boys’ doubles to win a gold in a tightly contested final match against Mohammed Redha Ghettas and Mohammed Slimane Kichou of Algeria.
In an interview with Gazette Sport recently, BTA President Oaitse Thipe said they are thrilled by the team’s performance at the recent championships which he deemed a true reflection of progress and growth amongst the youngsters. “We are so happy with the team’s performance, they did pretty well, and it shows that they have learned and gained much needed experience from the previous tournament because we threw them in the deep end for them to gain experience. This is growth and progress amongst our players, they improve day by day in every tournament they compete in. Note that this quite a young team that we are trying to groom from an early age and now we are happy that we are in the right track,” he said.
He further added that they intend to continue to expose these young players to such tournaments where they compete against the best in the continent so they better their rankings that will allow them to play at world events. “We are hopeful that in the next year or two our players will be playing the junior Wimbledon and US open and for them to reach that level they have to play lots of continental tournaments to gain more experience and better rankings. We have a pool of talented players in Botswana, and they have the potential to reach any stage in the world of tennis. All they need is sufficient support from all stakeholders in sports. It has not been an easy and smooth journey for the team in terms of finances because most of these players are self-sponsored to these tournaments which sometimes becomes so hard for parents to fully support but we are hopeful that next year things will be better,”. Thipe concluded.
For his part Seetso said he is satisfied with the progress he has made since returning to play from a very long injury spell. “I am content with my play, and I have been working very hard since I recovered from the injury. Winning at this stage is a major victory for me and I will forever be grateful. I am also very happy for my teammate, Mark. We did well together, and we have been hard at training every day and we are now working on perfecting our technique and looking forward to playing at the region 5 games,” he said.
Meanwhile BTA is represented by another team at the ongoing Africa Union Sport Council (AUSC) Region 5 games in Maseru, Lesotho. The team comprises Tshegofatso Tsiang, Leungo Monnayo, Chelsea Changanyuka, Loago Saleshando, Batsomi Marobela, Mark Nawa and Denzel Seetso under the tutelage of coaches Gaone Modisane and Brighton Keteng.
The team has already started on a high note with Marobela and Saleshando having won their first matches against opponents from Zambia and Lesotho.