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February 20, 2023

20 FEB 2023
Ross McLean

Following an absence of nearly two decades, the ITF World Tennis Tour has returned to Ethiopia with the staging of two junior tournaments in Addis Ababa – the nation’s capital city.

It was 2006 the last time an ITF World Tennis Tour tournament was held in Ethiopia, although that long 17-year wait has come to end with the Ethiopian Tennis Federation hosting back-to-back J30 events.

This is a significant moment for tennis development in Ethiopia, with the first of these tournaments taking place last week and the second getting underway today before concluding on Friday.

The draws have attracted more than 60 players from 30 nations worldwide, including 14 aspiring juniors from Ethiopia, while the developmental nature of proceedings has also stretched to officiating.

A national officiating school, conducted by Patrick Kamuhia, the ITF’s regional officiating officer in Africa, has provided the platform and environment for 16 African officials to polish their skills and continue their progression.

“I believe that one of the main pillars of development is the organisation and hosting of frequent national, regional and international tennis competitions,” Thierry Ntwali, the ITF’s Development Officer for East Africa, tells itftennis.com.

“These junior events will make a significant contribution to raising enthusiasm for the sport among Ethiopians. They will inspire Ethiopian players and enable the Ethiopian Tennis Federation to become a hub for regional and international tournaments.

“This will then encourage Ethiopian tennis players to raise their level and play at international level. I believe Ethiopian players are ready to make a return to international tennis and mimic the nation’s world-leading long-distance runners.”

J30 Addis Ababa
J30 Addis Ababa

Singles and doubles winners from the first J30 Addis Ababa event

Tennis has been played in Ethiopia since the 1930s but, following a period of relative inactivity, interest intensified in 2020, a trend which has continued following the Covid-19 pandemic.

In recent years, Ethiopia has rolled out the ITF Junior Tennis Initiative, which encourages children to pick up a racket for the first time, and hosted an ITF Play Tennis course – an introductory-level coaching certification for those looking to work with beginner players.

In July 2022, meanwhile, Ethiopia featured in Davis Cup for the first time in 20 years, finishing seventh in an Africa Group IV event after losing to Senegal, Ghana and hosts Cameroon before beating Mauritius in the positional play-off.

“From what I see on the ground and from the new generation of tennis leaders in Ethiopia, the future of tennis in Ethiopia is bright,” added Ntwali. “I see this group making an impact going forward.

“Ethiopia is a big tennis nation in my region, and they have previously led the game in the region. The effective resumption of tennis activities will allow Ethiopia to regain its place and promote the development of our sport to neighboring nations such as Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia.”

Sharing Ntwali’s view regarding the trajectory of tennis in Ethiopia and the all-encompassing benefits of hosting events is Mike Negussie, an Executive Member at the Ethiopian Tennis Federation. He believes a prosperous future may well beckon.

“These tournaments are putting Ethiopia on the map,” Negussie tells itftennis.com.

“People seem to be highly motivated to play tennis and our boys and girls are looking at the level of tennis others are playing, which makes them work hard to attain that level. In short, our children dream to be professional, and they are taking their first steps. 

“I hope these events will be an eye-opener. Everyone seems to be fascinated with the capacity we have and the organisational level we are handling it with. Every tennis family is also talking about the next tournament and the potential we have as a country.

“In addition, banks and big corporates are already asking us to prepare another one. These events are a breakthrough for tennis in Ethiopia and we hope we will reach the level of our brothers from Egypt and Tunisia in the coming five years.”

It would certainly appear that tennis development in Ethiopia is heading in an extremely positive direction. Watch this space.

J30 Addis Ababa

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