Tennis ace secures second senior title
The golden girl of Botswana tennis, Ekua Refilwe Youri continued her eye-catching recent form this week, putting in a sensational display on the hard courts of Spain to secure the second senior international title of her career.
Fresh from victory at the Catalan Federation Open in March, the Barcelona-based 16-year-old once again went toe-to-toe with some of the best young talent in Europe – and once again, she emerged victorious.
Heading into the Circuit Absolute Federation Tournament, Youri tells Voice Sport although she knew it would be tough, she was confident she could go all the way.
“It was always going to be a difficult tournament to play as there is massive competition but I soldiered on and went all the way to the finals,” says the Gaborone native, who is currently enrolled at Barcelona Tennis Academy.
Having made it to the final, Youri was faced with a slight anti-climax when her opponent, Russia’s Valeria Avdeeva, had to pull out through injury.
“I feel unsatisfied as I would have loved to clinch it fighting in the court but I am happy for the win,” says the level-headed teen, who counts Japan’s four-time Grand Slam winner, Naomi Osaka as her favourite player.
In her three matches leading up to the final, Youri dropped just one set, before cruising through a special tie-break to overcome Katarina Liedbeck 10-2 in the semis.
“Winning my second tournament for the year in succession is a massive milestone. I will continue working hard to win more trophies whilst I am still young,” concludes one of the great hopes for local tennis.
Closer to home, and Botswana Tennis Association (BTA) President, Oaitse Thipe admits they are extremely excited at what the future might hold for Youri.
“Ekua’s progress in Spain is remarkable. I believe she is ready to turn professional but she is going to need a lot of financial support as we all know that we have a few professional tournaments locally.”
Thipe further told Voice Sport he believes Youri’s achievements could spark a tennis revolution in the country.
“Ekua’s progress should be a motivation to our youngsters as she continues to fly our flag high, we wish her all the best of luck,” he said.
Quizzed about why Youri was not part of the six-man national team currently doing battle in Zimbabwe at an U/18 ITF tournament, Thipe explained, “Ekua is exposed to some of the best tournaments in Spain. We could not drag her from there to Southern Africa for a single tournament.”
Despite Youri’s absence, the youngsters have acquitted themselves well in Bulawayo.
Loago Saleshando and Denzel Seetso eased through their doubles match, while Seetso, in his first competitive action for 18 months, won his first round singles match in straight sets.
French based Naledi Chabuya-Raguin, 15, was far too good for her opponent, cruising to the second round without dropping a single game.
Mark Nawa was also successful, with Batshomi Marobela the only member of Team BW to taste defeat, putting up a brave fight in a 7-5, 6-2 loss.