Just like other sports, Rwanda is increasingly establishing itself as a hub for international tennis events as the country continues to win the vote of confidence from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to from which a host of international major international tennis competitions come to Kigali attracting a number of international tennis players from across the globe.
Rwanda has never been ITF’s random pick for all the six international tennis tournaments that will come to Kigali in 2023.
From the ongoing ITF World Tennis Tour Juniors’ tournament and the Billie Jean King Cup which will take place from June 5-11 to the Rwanda Open and Davis Cup, there was no magic in winning hosting rights for such major tournaments.
There is surely a good reason why the World Tennis governing body selected Rwanda to be home of the competitions.
According to Thierry Ntwali, the ITF Development Officer, Central and East Africa, Rwanda’s improved infrastructures and the political-will have made a standout impact to make it possible.
“Rwanda is in the development phase and hosting bigger competitions helps in inspiring young talents, that’s why the federation has considered bidding for hosting international tournaments,” Ntwali told Times Sport in an exclusive interview.
“The most important fact is Rwanda’s infrastructures and the willingness to improve quickly. When you compare Rwandan tennis pitches to Kenya’s you recognize a big difference, so everyone wants to come to Rwanda when it comes to bigger tournaments,” he added.
Rwanda welcomed 18 countries for the ITF World Tennis Tour Junior Grade 5 from April 24-28. The second round of a similar competition is running at the Kicukiro Ecology Tennis Club from May 1-5.
The same tennis court will host the Africa Group IV of the Billie Jean King Cup which will take place from June 5-11, bringing together 11 countries namely Rwanda, Angola, Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Senegal and Tanzania.
From July 17-22, Rwanda will host the Group IV Davis Cup tournament for the second time in a row, having successfully hosted the same event in July 2022.
In August, the country will host the ITF World Tennis Tour Juniors Grade 4 before the world convenes in Kigali for the Rwanda Open M25 in September.
All these tournaments, Ntwali said, are coming to Kigali not by chance but on merit because the country has been showing the potential to host tennis events and meet ITF expectations.
“For example, Rwanda hosted last year’s Davis Cup Africa zone five qualifiers and it is going to host a similar tournament this year, so this is not because other countries aren’t willing to host them.
Kenya and Uganda have also requested to host this year’s Davis Cup but the ITF decided to give it to Rwanda because they draw a good experience from how the country successfully hosted the 2022 edition,” Ntwali noted.
Ntwali explained that one more pillar that ITF considers to pick Rwanda is that the country not only performs well in hosting tournaments but its players also perform well.
“The country is producing young players who have been outstanding on the court. The organising country knows pretty well that doing their best in hosting ITF events is not enough. Their players must also be doing well and finish in good positions. That’s why we continue to see finals involving Rwanda players,” he said.