As Wimbledon giants Tomas Berdych, Serena and Venus Williams tumbled, East Africans had reason to smile as Hassan Ndayishimiye of Burundi today successfully made it through the first round of Wimbledon, beating Mattias Sborowitz of China, 6-3, 6-4 in the junior boys draw. Hassan, who had to go through a tough qualifying draw that saw him play and win against World class juniors,
He is poised to meet Frederico Frere Silva of Portugal, who beat the 12th seed of the boys tournament to earn a second round berth.
Hassan, hails from Buyenzi, a slum in the heart of Burundi, where his father, a coach at a local tennis club, first introduced him to tennis. Hassan was at 9 years, spotted by a international professional player, Martin Dzuwa, playing in the back courts of the club, and he persuaded a local member, Kassie McIlvaine, to send him to a humble little 3-court tennis centre at the edge of Kibera, Africa's largest slum in Nairobi, Kenya called Sadili Oval Sports Academy, where he honed his skills and the watchful eye of PTR Professional Dr. Liz Odera, and finally went to formal school, for 4 years, before returning home.
Hassan received a scholarship to the ITF Centre in Pretoria, where he has been for the last two years, and which changed his tennis life immensely, as he was able to play many top level tournaments in Africa and more lately in Europe. Many of his friends and opponents alike, will remember Hassan, and how he lit up the tennis stage in Kenya, as a little boy, challenging and often winning matches against top juniors, many three to four times his age. Hassan's stab at Wimbledon is an inspiration to many children of Buyenzi, many of whom, like him, work as hitters for the rich at the local tennis club. For them now, the sky is the limit. Kassie continues to watch and care for Hassan, and she was there to watch him win his first singles round at Wimbledon. This win makes Hassan the first Burundi national in history to advance in the main draw of Wimbledon.