Nairobi: A leading Serbian coach has said the three-month bombardment of the erstwhile Yugoslavia by the NATO forces had a hand in producing first-class tennis players.
Dusan Milojkovic, President of Serbia Coaching Committee, told reporters here Monday that Serbians went through very hard time March-June 1999 during which they were also under economic sanctions.
"During the period, children did not go to school. Players engaged in a lot of tennis and a lot of tournaments were organised to forget the problems," Milojkovic told Xinhua here Monday on the occasion of the World Tennis Day.
The coach, who is also the General Secretary of Tennis Association in the province of Vojvodina, said it was during that period that world-ranked players like current World No. 2 Novak Djokovich, Janko Tipsarevic, Viktor Troicki, Dusan Lajovic and Filip Krajinovic moulded their play.
Among the female players to come up are former Wimbledon champion and World No.1 Jelena Jankovic; 2008 World No.1 Ana Ivanovic; Bojana Jovanovski and Vesna Dolonch.
The NATO bombing was part of a military operation against Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War. It led to the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo and put an end to the war - and also split the country.
"To be No. 1 in any sport in the world, one has to go through much suffering and pain, and the commitment of the players as well as the support of their parents supplemented their efforts," Milojkovic said.
"The players went through a lot of anguish during which they had to borrow money to finance their travels to play in tournaments."
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) set aside March 3 to promote tennis and increase participation among players around the globe.
In its second edition, having been established last year, it was Kenya`s first time to join the occasion, which was marked in 74 cities including London, New York and Hong Kong, where games featured current and former professional players, and enhanced by activities generated by the ITF`s national associations across the globe.
Tennis Kenya president Paurvi Rawal said it was very exciting to see so many young people gathered to celebrate tennis.
"Other sports don`t have youth programmes for the youngsters, but I am overjoyed that in tennis we have put in place structures for the little ones."
A representative from the ITF, Susie Dyrbus said the association was working hard to demystify tennis as an elitist game.
"Anybody can play tennis anywhere since there is no need to have perfect facilities. However, if one desires to be No. 1 the world over, they need resources," Dyrbus said.
Milojkovic said Kenya has great potential for the game judging from the interest showed by the young ones and the facilities available to play the game.
"I Serbia, we have over 3200 players out of a population of seven million, but here in Kenya you have a larger base. However, because there are no local heroes in tennis like there are in athletics, Kenya needs to up the stakes in tennis," the coach said.