Africa provided the starting point for many of the Development Programme's circuit initiatives with the African Junior Championships as the centrepiece to a series of events on the continent that run each year.
The African Junior Championships are now into their 36th edition in 2013 with the main event run in Nairobi, Kenya from 18-23 March. The event has now developed to include a number of regional qualifying events as well as a warm-up tournament which is held the week prior to the Finals.
There are other, smaller events held throughout the year including a series of 18 & Under regional African circuits, which are open to players from around the world and form part of the ITF Junior Circuit.
African Junior Championships
The African Junior Championships have grown over the years since their first edition in 1978 when just four nations entered. They are competed over three age categories: 14 & Under, 16 & Under, and 18 & Under. From 2012, the 18 & Under competition was held independently of the other two age categories. It is a closed event that allows entry only to African players.
Qualifying was first introduced in 2007 for the 14 & Under and 16 & Under levels in three zones: West & Central Africa, Southern Africa and East Africa. This allowed the expansion of the event to reach ever more players and nations with around 300 players from over 30 different nations participating each year across both qualifying and the main event.
As well as singles and doubles competitions, each player's performance counts towards their countries score in the team competition with the best overall nation taking home the trophy.
The Championships are noted for their special atmosphere as well as competitive spirit and the enthusiasm on display. They are further a key event in bringing together players from across the continent to act as a valuable springboard for some of the best players from the region.
The African Junior Championships also count as the African regional qualifying event for the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup by BNP Paribas and the World Junior Tennis Competition, the ITF international team competitions for players of 16 & Under and 14 & Under respectively.
Players who have snatched the limelight on the international stage since competing in the African Junior Championships include:
Byron Black (ZIM): 18 & Under champion in 1985, went on to achieve a career high singles ranking of 22 as well as world No.1 in doubles. He also won the men’s doubles title at Roland Garros and has been a finalist in the men’s doubles at Wimbledon and the Australian Open.
Wayne Black (ZIM): Byron's brother has also gone on to represent Zimbabwe in the Davis Cup and the Olympic Games. In 1997 he won three Challenger titles to break into the top 100, reaching a world No.69 in singles and world No.6 in doubles. He also reached the semi-finals of the men’s doubles events at Wimbledon and the US Open and was a runner-up in the men’s doubles event at the 2000 Australian Open.
Hicham Arazi (MAR): champion in 1990, reached the quarter-finals at Roland Garros in 1997 and 1998 and the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in 2004. He has reached the Top 25 in men's singles.
Dally Randriantefy (MAD): Girls’ 18 & Under champion in 1990 and 1991, went on to compete at the Olympic Games and reached the third round of the Australian Open, Roland Garros and the US Open. She also reached 73 in the singles’ ranking.
Selima Sfar (TUN): Girls’ champion in 1994, reached a career high of world No.75 in the singles’ ranking picking up 8 titles on the Pro Circuit Tour.
Cara Black (ZIM): Girls’ champion in 1992, was nominated ITF Junior World Champion in 1997.On the professional tour she reached world No.1 in doubles as well as the Top 50 in singles. She took the Women's Doubles title at Wimbledon in 2004, 2005 and 2007 as well as at the Australian Open in 2007. In addition, she won the mixed doubles event at Roland Garros in 2002 and at Wimbledon in 2004 with her brother, Wayne.
For a full report from last year's events please follow the links below:
2012 African Junior Championships 18 & Under
2012 African Junior Championships 14/16 & Under