Junior Hakizimana is one of the positive results of those efforts meant to promote the sport tennis in the ambitious East African nation of Rwanda.
Tennis is gaining traction in Rwanda and is gradually becoming the country’s second most popular sport after football, thanks to huge investment in infrastructure, training and awareness campaign by the authorities.
He is just 13 but already a household name in the country of 11 million people.
“We have been following him for the last three years – since he was 10-year-old. He is exceptional,” said Théoneste Karenzi, president of the Rwanda Tennis Federation.
In 2018, Hakizimana, then 11, won the East African U12 Championships held in Kigali and went on to represent his country and the East Africa region at the African Championships later that year in Morocco.
Last week, Hakizimana won silver at this year’s East African U14 Tennis Championships held in Kenya and was offered a scholarship to train at the International Tennis Federation (ITF) High-Performance Training Centre in Nairobi, starting next month.
“We are all, at Rwanda tennis, happy and proud of him. Junior (Hakizimana) will go places if he continues to work hard and get the right trainers,” Karenzi said.