31 Jul 2017

GSDF College Team initiative launched

News Article

Photo: Susan MullaneAziz Dougaz (TUN)

A new initiative designed to help top college players forge a career in the professional game has been launched by the ITF and the Grand Slam Development Fund.

In line with the ITF’s new strategy to increase investment and expertise in its development programmes, six players have been selected to take part in a new scheme to support future professionals currently attending college on the basis of their Intercollegiate Tennis Association and ATP/WTA ranking.

Four men and two women have been chosen to participate across two International College ITF/GSDF teams, with a training camp beginning the itinerary for each team before the players compete in scheduled ITF Pro Circuit tournaments across USA. All their costs for accommodation, meals, transport, entry fees and coaching are covered by the ITF/GSDF.

Gustav Hansson (SWE), Alexandru Gozun (MDA), Aziz Dougaz (TUN) and Guy Iradukunda (BDI) form the men’s team and are currently a fortnight into the programme, which began with a three-day training camp in Illinois on 14-16 July.

Hansson, Dougaz and Iradukunda are all former Top 100 junior players, with Dougaz going on to achieve the highest-ranking amongst the four players in the men’s game having climbed to No. 700 last August. Dougaz and Iradukunda both attended ITF/GSDF training centres in Africa during their youth, while Iradukunda, most notably, was the first Burundian to take part in the Youth Olympic Games at Nanjing 2014.

After their training camp in mid-July, the men’s team moved on to back-to-back $25,000 tournaments in Champaign, Illinois with Iradukunda recording the best results – winning six matches across the two qualifying draws to reach the main draw, where he fell in the first round on both occasions.

The men’s team, led by coach Kieron Vorster, will compete in two further tournaments in Illinois over the next fortnight – at $25,000 events in Decator and Edwardsville.

The women’s team features two players from New Zealand – Erin Routliffe and Paige Hourigan. Routliffe, aged 22, is a former junior world No. 17, who has a career-high WTA ranking of No. 591 and was ranked as high as No. 13 in the college standings.

Hourigan, 20, also reached a college-high of No. 13, and climbed to No. 1126 in the WTA rankings last month.

Routliffe and Hourigan took part in a training camp in California, led by team coach Roberta Burzagli, as a warm-up for two women’s circuit tournaments taking place over the next two weeks – at the $60,000 event in Lexington, KY and the $25,000 event in Landisville, PA.