Rwanda has been selected as one of two African countries, along with South Africa, to host the 2024 ATP 50 Challenger Tour scheduled for February 2024, Times Sport can exclusively reveal. As part of the build-up and preparation for the event, a delegation from the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP is set to visit Rwanda from December 10-15 for a fact-finding mission, according to Rwanda Tennis Federation (RTF) president Theoneste Karenzi. The 50 Challenger, is one four ATP Tour (Challenger) events, along with Challenger 75, Challenger 100 and Challenger 125. Starting from 2023, the ATP has phased out the Challenger 90 and 110 categories, effectively reducing the number of core Challenger categories from six to four. The competition attracts players ranked between 100 and 200 in the world, however, Karenzi noted that, “but that does not mean any player ranked higher can not come. It’s a competition where players look not just for prize money but ATP points. It’s an opportunity for players to improve their ranking.” “We expect around 65 players, and these players will come with their coaches, some with their parents and other officials, who will not only spend in hotels while here but also tour the country—that’s all money that will stay here,” he added. The ATP 50 Challenger will be arguably among the biggest (sports) events to ever take place in Rwanda as it ranks among top events like the Basketball Africa League (BAL) and Tour du Rwanda (Cycling). The event will have a prize money of up to USD 50,000 (over Rwf61,700,000). Asked why Rwanda and South Africa, Karenzi said, “first and foremost, the infrastructure, our courts meet international standards, our organisation, and hospitality. The ATP considers these factors, so picking us is a vote of confidence in Rwanda’s ability to host high profile events.” This year (2023) alone, Rwanda hosted several high-profile tennis competitions including Billie Jean King Cup in June, Davis Cup Africa Group IV in July, Rwanda Open M25 in September and the ITF World Tennis Tour Juniors which twice took place in Kigali, from April 24 to May 5 and another from August 14-25. ALSO READ: Damien Wenger wins it all at Rwanda Open M25 ALSO READ: Corentin Denolly crowned Rwanda Open M25 Week II champion Karenzi said that the APT proposed to his federation to host the 50 ATP Challenger Tour event after getting “good reviews (from international players) about our suitability to organise high-profile competitions.” “The purpose of the ATP delegation coming for the fact-finding mission next month is not to confirm Rwanda as hosts, because that has already been confirmed, but rather to hold meetings with the relevant stakeholders, among them, the Ministry (Sports) and RDB (Visit Rwanda),” he emphasized. The RTF boss admitted that Rwanda can’t afford to miss this chance, reason being, “if we miss and it is taken elsewhere, we may never be able to bring it here again. So, we need to show our readiness to host the event at the scheduled dates (in February), because after that, it won’t be possible.” About the fact that no Rwandan player qualifies to play in the tournament, Karenzi was quick to note that, “indeed, we will not have our players in the event but it’s a big opportunity for them to see international players live in action, and they will be able to get inspired by some of the best.” Men’s professional tennis begins with the ATP Challenger Tour. Players develop their talents and skills against the competition, while gaining valuable experience as they climb the ATP Rankings. Every player launches their career at this level, with hope of reaching the top 100 and competing at the ATP Tour and the Grand Slam tournaments. For instance, current World No. 2, Carlos Alcaraz, launched his career at this level in 2020, before breaking into the top 100 in 2021, then soaring to the World No. 1 a year later.