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Why tennis juniors flopped in South Africa

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Disturbing details have emerged on how an ill-prepared, exhausted and sleepy Malawi junior tennis national team plunged straight into CAT Southern Africa Junior Circuit two hours after arriving in South Africa.

Result? The 12-member team which covered 1,661 kilometres travelling on a public bus, embarrassingly failed to win a medal at the regional circuit and with it, for the first time since 2009 missed out on Africa Junior Tennis Championship qualification.

Following the disastrous outing in Pretoria, three members of the team [names withheld] have accused Lawn Tennis Association of Malawi (LTAM) for presiding over shoddy preparations and ignoring players’ welfare.

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“Our preparations were shambolic. We never spent time together in camp. We were training individually at our zones in Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Blantyre. Yet, previously after individual training, our counterparts used to camp for more than two weeks,” said one of the players.

Another player claimed that there was uncertainty surrounding the trip as such their zonal coaches were not serious during individual training.

“After we had been named in the squad, we were expected to undergo intensive training at our bases. That never happened as our coaches rarely reported for training and we were training on our own,” said the youngster.

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However, another youngster claimed travelling by bus contributed to their awful and dismal performance.

“We were tired when we arrived in South Africa. In previous trips, we arrived two days before the competition. We never had a chance to take part in tennis clinic which usually takes place a day or two before the competition. We were suffering from fatigue and it contributed to our downfall,” said the player.

However, LTAM technical director, Thompson Mtengula, while reluctant to comment as he was finalising a technical report on Malawi’s downfall, blamed the association’s elections for keeping executive members engaged.

“I am equally at pains to explain our downfall. We tried to motivate the players but it didn’t work. Officials hardly planned for this trip. Maybe, there was communication breakdown between the former and new committee. Indeed, we did not prepare well. Players suffered fatigue,” Mtengula admitted, saying previous road trip yielded medals.

LTAM president, Titani Muwalo, declined to comment in absence of a technical report from Mtengula. He said the association will meet over the matter this week.

Ironically, last year Malawi won medals at a similar event in Mozambique from where Ramesh Banda qualified for the Africa Junior Championship staged in Morocco.

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