A Scots university which has seized the Andy Murray effect to inspire young people to take up the game has travelled to Africa to help develop a new generation of players.
Members of the St Andrews University Tennis Club volunteered in Zambia for a month to coach players at the Olympic Youth Development Centre in Lusaka.
Regi Monroe, Anna Shackleton, and Ridwan Pfluger trained up to 100 Zambians over four weeks alongside the country’s No. 1 tennis player Edgar Kazembe.
Ms Monroe, 22, an international relations student and president of the university tennis club, said the “idolisation” of Murray in Scotland had got people interested in playing the game on home soil - and that in Africa too, young players were inspired by the two-time Wimbledon champion.
Ms Monroe said: “Before we headed out, we knew very little of what to expect. We knew there were courts but we didn’t know if there were going to be rackets, grips or balls.
They worked hard and they managed with what they had. You wonder how they would do if they had better equiment.Regi Monroe, president of St Andrews University Tennis Club
“But we were so impressed by the quality of play that we saw. The kids would go to school for three or four hours a day, but they would come to the centre and play for six hours a day.”
Ms Monroe said the dedication of the pupils had been “amazing” and that the pupils played on, hour after hour, despite not having the best equipment.
She added: “Around half of the players had their own rackets and those with them would play in for around five minutes and pass their racket on.
“It takes around four to six months for a delivery of tennis balls to arrive from South Africa. We had 36 tennis balls for 30 students. That is nothing. They were playing for six hours a day with 36 balls and by the end the balls were destroyed. They will still be playing with those balls for another four months.”
She said that sticks were used to restring rackets and rubber bands deployed as shock absorbers.
Ms Monroe said that the focus of the training camp had been to teach the young players about game tactics to help them understand the game better.
“They worked hard and they managed with what they had. You wonder how they would do if they had better equipment.
“The players had this fantastic work ethic. After three hours you would tell them we’re going to be taking a lunch break. They would be back on court within five minutes.
“Some of them would run four miles to get to the court for lessons. They loved it and they wanted to do well.”
Ms Monroe said she had trained many young players in Scotland and, while some of them were good players, they didn’t have the same dedication as she found in Zanzibar.
The St Andrews Tennis Project Programme in Zambia was brought about by Stephen Stewart, director of sport at St Andrews University and Fergus Knight, marketing and business development manager.
Clement Chileshe, director of the Olympic Youth Development Centre in Lasaka, said: ““We would like to thank the University of St Andrews for the support not only on tennis but on various aspects of sport development in the country. This has greatly helped the development of the community and youth sport in the country. Our Coach Edgar Kazembe has in the past few years dominated the region. And we believe when we engage the young people and train them properly with the equipment, we will be able to produce athletes who will bring honour to this country.”