A 16-year-old boy from Burundi has been making history at Wimbledon, becoming the first player from the East African country to participate in the world-famous tennis championships.
Hassan Ndayishimiye was in tears on court after making his Wimbledon debut, overcome with the occasion and his historic achievement.
Born in Bujumbura, the capital and main port of the landlocked republic on Lake Tanganyika, Ndayishimiye is the son of a tennis coach and started playing at the age of five.
“He’s one of the most promising juniors from Africa, especially that part of Africa,” said Isabelle Gemmel, administrator of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) juniors department.
“It’s a fantastic thing for his country and a big deal for the national association,” she said.
Ndayishimiye has received support from the Grand Slam Development Fund, established by the ITF in 1986, which helps increase opportunities for talented junior players from developing nations.
Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, the French Open girls’ champion, has also come through the scheme.
Funded by the four tennis majors, the scheme pays for the ITF-Grand Slam Touring Team, which Ndayishimiye is a part of.
He was also among a 14-strong group which attended the ITF’s Anglophone African Training Centre in Pretoria last year, which uses the University of Pretoria’s facilities.
Ndayishimiye trained alongside players from Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi, Madagascar, Ghana, Namibia, South Africa and Kenya.
At the ITF’s request, the All England Club gave him a wildcard into the Wimbledon qualifying tournament and Ndayishimiye proved his worth, winning the two matches required to reach the main draw.
Ranked 112 in the world juniors, Ndayishimie made it through his first round match against Chile’s Matias Sborowitz, ranked 25, 6-4, 6-4.
“He was in tears afterwards, overwhelmed with being there and having won,” Gemmel said.
However, he lost Tuesday’s second round match to world number 48 Frederico Ferreira Silva of Portugal, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 in a tight encounter on Court 15, one of the outside courts wedged between Centre Court and Court 1.
Ndayishimiye has every chance of becoming a top African player. There are no black Africans in the top 250. Indeed, the only African players among the men’s top 250 are a handful of white South Africans.
Former Grand Slam touring team members include Olympic gold medallist Nicolas Massu, French Open winners Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil and world number four Li Na of China, plus world number five Victoria Azarenka. — AFP