Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S junior tennis player Nicole Matukutire had a brilliant outing at the ongoing ITF/CAT Southern Africa Junior championships as she claimed the Girls Under-14 title in Gaborone, Botswana on Thursday.
Matukutire is part of the 12-member team in Botswana for the zonal championships which caters for Under-14s and Under-16s.
The 12-year-old was on top of her game as she defeated South Africa’s Line Greyling 6-4, 6-1 in Thursday’s final. Matukutire had on Wednesday overpowered another South African player Heike Janse Van Vuuren 6-1, 4-6, 10-5 in a semi-final match that had to be decided by a super tie break.
Coach, Farai Tapfuma, who accompanied the team was full of praise for the upcoming player and said she played according to instructions.
“We are allowed court coaching for Under-14s and I am happy with the level of her listening skills and implementation of the strategy.
“We were planning during changeover and she really played very well because we changed her type of play to what was required with our opponents.
“And also she won three matches in a row against South African players, so the coaches tried all strategies and they couldn’t manage.
“She is the first Under-14 girls’ player who is 12 years to win this event for Zimbabwe in a decade,” Tapfuma said.
Claire Machisa came fourth in the same age-group after she lost 0-6, 2-6 to Janse Van Vuuren. Rufaro Magarira dismissed Loubser Makayla of South Africa 6-1, 6-2 to settle for third place in the girls Under-16.
Magarira, who had a promising start went down to South Africa’s Jessica Portwig 6-7, 0-6 in the semi-finals on Wednesday. Several Zimbabwean players reached the quarter-finals, but found the going tough.
Tapfuma, who highlighted before their departure to Botswana that their challenge was likely to come from South Africa said most of the players struggled against their southern neighbours.
“Most players played well. But like I said we have challenges when we are playing South Africa.
“Most kids lost to South African players and those who won are those kids who go and play South African tournaments,” Tapfuma said.
The Zimbabwean coach also blamed lack of competition as the drawback for some of the players who could not go past the second round.
“Our players who lost early, I noticed that they were not playing tournaments for the last two months or so.
“So the competition was a bit tougher for them than before when we started with the round robin then knock out stages. This time it was knock out stage straight,” said Tapfuma.
Zimbabwe will be hoping for better results in the team events starting today. The championships are running until January 16.