By: Jan Stanski (love4tennis.pl)
Sadili Oval (director and head Professional, Kenya): “we run the largest tennis program in the East and Central Africa region, with about 600 children annually. Our programmes are distributed amongst the poorest in the region (who train for free and form 88 percent of the population) , to the richer communities. We handle beginner to top level juniors and take a select team to the ITF events. We just opened the Sadili Talent Training Academy to develop very talented juniors as well as provide homeschooling, and have successfully taken some to university in USA on scholarship.
African tennis has a great future, only if we take control of the direction and pace that it is taking ourselves. There is over-dependence on ITF to support country activities, control of the associations by people who have the interest, but lack the skills to take the game to the next level. And more, there has been a “skills darin” with the best talent leaving to live and play outside of Africa because there exists no opportunity for growth. ITF also needs to re- look at their way of assisting Africa, and re-organise the grand slam fund, and create a clear point system so that those who are really improving tennis get more funding.”
Johan Kriek: (two time Australian Open champion, tennis coach): “As far as tennis is concerned, I can only speak for myself and what is going on in South-Africa. Tennis in Africa is not where it should be. I think there are many talented youngsters in various countries however to date myself and Yannick Noah are the only “African” citizens from that continent to have won a Grand Slam title. There should be many more. Unfortunately, the coaching may be lacking and it is an expensive sport for poorer nations. I hope that tennis grows in Africa but at this stage I do not see or hear much in terms of results from other African countries.”
Lan Bale: (former ATP doubles player, tennis coach): “It’s hard to tell what the future holds for tennis in Africa, but I’m not very optimistic. Much like everything else in Africa there are abundant resources (big population, great climate, talented athletes etc) but there seems to be a lack of a good solid structure that can make the most of the resources(Just like most of the countries themselves). Obviously money is the biggest drawback, or rather lack of money. It costs lots of money to build decent facilities and to provide grass roots tennis to a lot of people with the hope that a few of them will push on and become professionals. The other part of becoming a top class player that is very expensive is travel, and with serious sponsorship this is impossible for most people in Africa. When most of the population is working hard just to survive a “luxury” sport such as tennis is out of reach. The ITF does a good job, as much as it can in Africa, but with the exception of South Africa any promising players would have to leave their respective countries to further their tennis careers. I think that the ITF has a center in South Africa where talented kids from other countries can go and train that is subsidized by the ITF. African successes? Question about the best African tennis player is a tough one. Johan Kriek won 2 Grand Slam singles titles, the Australian Open twice. Kevin Curren made the finals of Wimbledon . Also Cara Black is the second longest ever world number one in womens doubles behind Martina Navratilova. The other interesting one is Jaroslav Drobny, he won Wimbledon in 1954 and was an Egyptian citizen”.