Uganda is set to host the largest tennis event ever in East Africa, when the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Pro-circuit tennis event kicks off later this month.
This was revealed during a press conference organised by the Uganda Tennis Association on Thursday April 12 at the Tennis Club in Lugogo. The Pro-Circuit tennis event is divided into four championships, with each running for a week. And these will run from April 27 to May 28 at the Tennis Club in Lugogo.
There will be cash prizes totalling $60,000 for the over 200 participants expected to grace the event. It is an all out professional tennis tournament that will attract athletes from all over the world, many of whom will be aiming to boost their chances of climbing up the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) rankings.
For Uganda, it is an opportunity to return to the big times of international tennis, a stage at which they have not been, following a seven-year absence. Uganda Tennis Association (UTA) was suspended from international tennis after it failed to pay its annual membership fee with ITF.
As a result of the suspension Uganda has not been able to participate in any international tournaments like the Davis Cup and Fed Cup.
Cedric Babu, the president of UTA said, “The times have been tough for us until the National Council of Sports (NCS) came to our aid and paid the $27,000 (Shs 97 million) for UTA to be re-admitted to the ITF family in December 2017.”
Yet, that simply proved a precursor to the huge amount of work UTA has to accomplish. Babu said that they want to see to it, that the tennis talent in the country gets a shot at international stage again, after a seven-year absence.
Considering how expensive tennis can be, because of the logistics that are involved: air tickets, equipment and training, hosting the ITF Pro-Circuit is a fine opportunity for Uganda’s players. The many emerging talents, will have a chance to compete on the world scene against more experienced tennis players.
That said, Dean Kibirige, the UTA general secretary said that each of the four rounds of the Pro-Circuit event will cost a whopping Shs 100 million, as far as organization is concerned. Against that background, UTA is appealing to government to come to their aid, and ensure that the entire programme is a success.
Uganda Breweries through their flagship brand, Tusker Lite is one of the major sponsors that have come on board to support the UTA in hosting the Pro-Circuit.
Also, Kabira Country Club, Stanbic Bank, the National Information Technology Association (NIRA), Kampala Capital City Authority and the Uganda Tourism Board are the distinguished bodies partnering with the UTA in this cause.
Babu highlighted that this event not only has sporting benefits to Uganda’s athletes, but great economic and social implications.
“When the foreign tennis players come in, you can be assured of huge expenditure from them during the time they will be here,” Babu said. To be part of the Pro-circuit tennis event, the entry fee will be Shs 5,000 ($1.4) and Shs 10,000 ($2.8).
Meanwhile, a team of four ladies will represent Uganda at the Fed Cup Europe/Africa Zone Three tournament. Sandra Khissa, Daphine Mukasa, Patience Athieno and Winnie Birungi will be carrying Uganda’s flag in Montenegro from April 16 to 21.