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The agony of Malawi senior tennis players

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Not long ago, South African top seed, Kelvin Anderson, used to compete in the Southern Africa junior circuits tournaments alongside then youthful Malawian tennis players such as Ronald Kandulu and Charles Msatiyenda.

In fact, then Malawi’s experienced players such as Julius Taulo and James Matewere saw Anderson rising in the ranks.

Kandulu last played with Anderson between 2002 and 2004 in tournaments.

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But 10 years down the line, the South African has made huge strides in tennis circles.

He has earned top-10 ranking in the world whereas Kandulu and the rest of Malawians have never enjoyed success at the senior level.

For Kandulu and others, when they see Anderson playing in major tournaments including the US Open, they rue that they did not exploit their full potential.

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“This other day, I was talking to my mum when I saw him on the television. She could not believe that I played with him at junior level. I must admit he was a better player, but I wasn’t very far off from him,” Kandulu recalls.

He says due to the absence of structures and programmes to sustain players graduating from junior level, Malawi has lost many players who could have represented the country at the highest level.

Taulo, on his part, says senior players are neglected in the country and they rarely take part in international tournaments.

“The association fails to send us to international tournaments. Yet, when we were juniors they were supporting us. We don’t have structures to maintain players at senior level,” he said.

Taulo says Malawian players were struggling during the Puma Energy Malawi Open championship due to lack of tournaments.

“You can’t train the whole year for one tournament. If we had, at least, six tournaments to complement efforts by Puma, I am very much convinced that we could have been winning the Malawi Open,” he said.

Italian Egon Tascher, who defeated James Matewere 6-3 6-1 6-3 to win the men’s section of the Malawi Open, says he competes in 10 tournaments on average a year.

“Of course, back home in Italy I mostly spend my time training tennis players. But even then I play in 10 or more tournaments. There is no better way to improve your tennis than taking part in competitive games,” he said.

LTAM general secretary, Christopher Kachale, says inadequate sponsorship was affecting the development of senior players.

“We count on Puma Energy and Presidential championship to hold senior tournaments. We have approached several organisations to consider funding us, but all we get is that our plate is full,” Kachale said.

“It is also difficult to send senior players abroad because seniors are like professionals and they are supposed to fund themselves like how it is done elsewhere,” he said.

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