With origins tracing to Emperor Menelik II’s reign, tennis has seen gradual growth over the decades in Ethiopia. Introduced by French railway workers in the late 19th century, the sport gained formal structure in 1980 under the Sports and Physical Training Commission.
While equipment costs risk portraying tennis as elitist, enthusiasts from all walks of life are embracing the game nationwide. Addis Ababa notably cultivates talent competing regionally and internationally.
The men’s team recently represented the nation at championships in DR Congo and Rwanda, marking a return after 25 years.
Guiding development is the Ethiopian Tennis Federation led by Tamrat Bekele. Prioritizing grassroots outreach, the Federation provides coaching and refereeing training to different university staff, capitalizing on existing campus facilities and infrastructure. This outreach has substantially advanced the game’s progression.
Pilot projects have launched successfully at Addis Ababa, Adama, Bahir Dar University and Arba Minch. In partnership with the International Tennis Federation (ITF), a new project will introduce tennis into four schools in the capital.
Emphasizing tennis’ appeal across all demographics, Tamrat stresses the need to encourage widespread community embracement beyond current enthusiasts.
Hosting two international competitions in Addis Ababa last year positioned Ethiopia as a sporting focal point for the ITF. This season, the nation has gained the opportunity to stage another international event, enabling broader participation whilst reducing athletes’ expenses associated with private overseas travel for competitions.
The recent tournament revitalized tennis interest in Ethiopia whilst providing a renowned stage for young talent. It also generated foreign currency through international player participation and opened domestic tourism opportunities, contributing overall to the sport’s continuing development.
Efforts are also underway to develop tennis facilities across more locations to expand the game’s reach and promote awareness. While nationwide construction of stadiums presents limitations, discussions with the ITF involve distributing equipment to further tennis’ growth prospects.
Participants’ positive feedback underlined satisfaction with the competition’s organization and showcased Ethiopia’s capabilities, enhancing its international reputation in the sport. Strong working relationships have also been forged between the Ethiopian Tennis Federation, the International Tennis Federation, and the African Tennis Confederation.
Tamrat reiterated tennis’ untapped potential beyond youth participation alone, advocating its popularization across all strata of Ethiopian society.
With 33 existing tennis courts on university campuses nationwide, optimum utilization of these existing facilities is expected to cultivate competitiveness on the international circuit going forward.