After five failed attempts, local tennis players are giving this year’s ITF Men’s Futures yet another go.
Since 2002 when Rwanda hosted her premier tournament, no Rwandan has ever gone past the first round but they have another chance to break that jinx.
Rwanda’s best performance in the competition came last year when Eric Hagenimana teamed up with Jean Claude Gasigwa to reach the second round in the doubles.
However, with Hagenimana ruled out of the tournament due to a busy schedule at his training base in Texas, USA, the attention will be on Gasigwa, the most experienced local player in the tournament to do the needful.
As hosts, Rwanda has three players lined up in the tournament’s main draw after failing to post a player past the qualification phase which climaxed yesterday at Nyarutama and Novotel courts.
Rwanda entered seven local players in the qualifying phase but none managed to make it to the main draw.
This leaves Gasigwa, Dieudonne Habiyambere and Olivier Nkunda as the only representatives in today’s draw which unfolds today at Novotel.
The trio was directly posted into the main draw after landing wild cards from the International Tennis Federation.
Meanwhile, Netherlands’ Middelkoop Matwe and Romania’s Gabriel Moraru start the five-day event not only as top seeds but as favourites as well. Matwe is ranked 324 while Moraru is 345 in the ATP rankings.
Matwe, (24) has played 25 tournaments this year, reached the quarterfinals six times, semi-finals once, finals twice and won two tournaments; Spain F6 Futures and France F1 Futures.
With handsome sponsorship packages from the government (Sports ministry), ITF, Heineken, Sulfo Rwanda and Banque de Kigali (BK), US$15000 has been staked as prize money with the winner walking away with US$1500.
The tournament will be run by an Egyptian Referee (Khaled Elsergany) together with five umpires; Elly Makekwe, Lawrence Karanja, Anthony Marete, J.P.Nshimiyimana and Justin Ntaheranwa.