When the wheelchair tennis event starts at the Paralympics on Saturday, there will be a strong representation of Silver Fund countries. Eleven countries of the thirty five Silver Fund countries are competing at the games across all three events.
The Silver Fund is celebrating its tenth anniversary and is the ITF development project which aims to develop wheelchair tennis in developing nations and is celebrating its tenth anniversary, in partnership with the foundation of Johann Cruyff, who was present at the draw ceremony at Eton Manor yesterday. The Silver Fund countries of Zimbabwe, Morocco, Iraq, and Iran are all competing for the first time in the Paralympics.
“It’s a great opportunity to be here and to be part of the men’s draw. It is everybody’s dream and every player’s dream to represent their country in such a high level of competition” Zimbabwean player Nyasha Mharakurwa commented. Mharakurwa will play swiss player Yann Avanthey in the first round on Saturday.
Fellow African Nigerian Alex Adewale will face number eight seed Nicolas Peifer in the first round. “ I am happy to be one of the Paralympic athletes’. I am going to go out and play my best” Adewale said. There is another Nigerian in the draw, but South Africa and Thailand both have the greatest number of player representatives with four players for each country competing.
Argentinean players’ Gustavo Fernandez and Augustin Ledesma are currently ranked world number one and two on the Junior ranking and are also making their debut in the games.
“I am excited to be here. Being here is something unique, not for everyone and so I am enjoying each moment of this great moment of my life” said Fernandez. Fernandez is seeded five in the men’s singles draw and has a first round meeting with Italian Fabian Mazzei, whom he beat on the only other meeting of these two players at the Swiss Open in 2011.
These two players are not the sole two Juniors from Silver Fund countries competing in the competition with Brazilian Natalia Mayara and Colombian Angelica Bernal representing the girls in the women’s draw. All these Juniors are in their first Paralympic Games and are relishing the opportunity to compete. “I am so proud to be here, representing Colombia” Bernal stated.
Lucas Sithole from South Africa is the only Silver Fund quad in the draw, one of the first Silver Fund projects to be started. Play will start at Eton Manor at 11am on Saturday.