The South African tennis player, Kevin Anderson, has been like a breath of fresh air for African sports lovers. At least here is a player from Africa who knows how to get into the final of a sporting event.
It has certainly been a hugely disappointing FIFA World Cup, by Africa’s modest standards.
While African sports lovers have generally been licking their wounds for the past two weeks or so, Kevin Anderson, has jerked African sport from wallowing in its self-pity by demonstrating serious determination and tenacity to eliminate American, John Isner and get to his first Wimbledon final.
Anderson’s match with Isner has been confirmed as the second longest match ever in Grand Slam history.
Kevin Anderson has made glorious history. Whatever happened in the final against Novak Djokovic is immaterial.
Anderson is one of the young tennis lions from Africa who have been straining the leash, wanting to be given all the support they needed to conquer the world.
It is ironic that Kevin Anderson was getting into the final when Africa was mourning the passing away of Paul Chingoka, former president of Tennis Zimbabwe and Confederation of African Tennis.
Chingoka was a brilliant tennis administrator, who worked to provide a conducive environment for the emergence of the Zimbabwean first family of tennis, the Black family.
Brothers Byron and Wayne as well as their sister, Cara Black, were pushed into the international stage by their tennis-loving parents and, of course, Paul Chingoka.
Tennis in Africa is poorer without this gentle giant. May his rest in eternal peace.
While Africa mourns the passing away of Paul Chingoka, there is cause for great celebration in the sport of tennis. Africa now has a fantastic role model to motivate children to pick up a racket and hit a tennis ball.
Role models are very important in all aspects of life. They inspire others to follow in their footsteps and in some cases exceed the achievements of their heroes.
The mere fact that he was in the final, was a great achievement on its own.
Not many people, even the most talented players, make the finals at this premier showcase of tennis at SW19. It is only proper that Africa celebrates its own who have done well in the international arena.
As much as all tennis enthusiasts and sports fans, in general, marvel at the amazing prowess exhibited by Kevin Anderson, one cannot help but wonder why there continues to be an alarming absence of African players at such major events.
It is true that Rome was not built in a day, but when you look at African tennis, you begin to ask whether there is any building in progress. If indeed workers are hard at work developing the game in Africa, where are the signs?
What are the milestones? It has taken Africa 97 years to get a player into the final at Wimbledon.
The last player to achieve that feat was a South African, Bob Norton, in 1921. On the women’s side, the last player from Africa to get to the finals was another South African, Sandra Reynolds Price who achieved the unimaginable in 1960.
Of course, tennis administrators can point to the fact that tennis was very much an elitist sport reserved mostly for white people during the colonial years. However, the colonial era is long gone.
Things have changed dramatically and in this day and age, there is simply no excuse for poor performance!
At 32 years of age, Kevin is the breed of young youngsters who took up the game in the 1990s. Good training, discipline and all-round support have taken him to the Wimbledon finals.
In this connection, there is a need for a deliberate program undertaken by the CAT to mobilise resources for the development of the game on the continent.
The CAT should not be dependent on the International Tennis Federation for all things but should provide visible and dynamic leadership for the development of the game on the continent.
Without scientific talent identification and development, there will be no meaningful development.
Performances of Africans players at these major events are extremely below par.
This can be attributed to a number of factors, the main ones being the shortage of qualified coaches and necessary infrastructure throughout Africa.
To produce a world-class tennis player, it is a precondition and an imperative that you have a world-class coach.
Do we have world-class tennis coaches in Africa who are really passionate about the game?
It is really a chicken and egg conundrum. It would be great if CAT could identify suitably qualified coaches throughout the continent who can be sent on attachments at various tennis academies in the world to learn the art and science of producing world-class players.
This success that CAT and its member countries should deliver, is not rocket science but a product of deliberate sport development planning and programme implementation.
There is no doubt that Africans, given an opportunity and sound preparation, can compete with and beat the very best in world sport.
The responsibility for creating a conducive environment lies squarely on the shoulders of the CAT and its member countries.