2017 ITF 12&UNDER TEAM COMPETITIONS (ASIAN SWING)
The International Tennis Federation has launched a new project in 2017, which would benefit scores of sub junior category tennis players around the world.
In a unique format (which builds up to events eventual form, the Davis Cup and the Fed Cup), the ITF launched team competition for the 12&Unders across the world starting this year.
The main objectives of the ITF via the launch of the 12&Under Team Competition are broadly to A. Introduce young players to team competitions, B. Educate young players on the importance of representing their respective nation and team spirit, helping the player pathway and finally; C. Preparing them for their transition from tennis 10s to World Junior Tennis Competitions (U14) and the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup (U16).
The format of competition selects national teams from a regional qualifying series of events, with qualifiers from East, South East, South, Central and West Asia meeting in a twelve (12) team final towards the end of the year.
A similar circuit has started taking place in other continents of the world, how ever each continent would have a regional finals only unlike the WJT Boys & Girls, which has a World Finals every year. The first edition of the ITF Asia 12&Under Team Championships 2017 was held in Lebanon where the West Asia 12&Under Regional Qualifying Event was organized for the first time for this age category. Hosted by the Lebanese Tennis Federation, the West Asia Regional Qualifying Event was organized from 26th to 31st of March at the ATCL center in Jounieh, Lebanon.

The 1st years event saw the participation of 7 nations in boys and 4 nations in girls tournaments. All the teams started off with a practice session on March 26th followed by the draw, where Qatar and Lebanon were picked up to be the first and second seed respectively in the Boys category. Lebanon and Iran were picked up as the top seeds of the girls draw.

The Team Ties started immediately after the opening ceremony which was held on the morning of March 27th presided over by Oliver Faysal, President of the Lebanese Tennis Federation. The format of the ITF Asia 12&U Team Championships is similar to Davis Cup and Fed Cup and its junior counterpart events such as the WJT Boys and Girls and the Junior Davis Cup, Junior Fed Cup events. For each tie the teams played two singles followed by a deciding doubles match. After 5 days of exciting matches between the future champions of the region, in the Boys event, Qatar & Lebanon took the top two positions, while in Girls, Lebanon & Iran qualified for the Asian finals. Winners of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd places received a trophy in recognition of their achievements. National teams of Syria, Iran, Yemen, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Iraq and Lebanon participated in the 2017 qualifying event for West Asia.

Amir Borghei, the ITF Development Officer for West & Central Asia at the closing ceremony said: "Asia is experiencing a magnificent development initiative this year with five regional qualifying events for 12&U national teams in the 5 subregions of the continents. The 12 best teams of the 5 regional qualifying events (Boys and Girls) will then compete together in the ITF Asia 12&U Team Championships 2017, Final Qualifying Event, which will take place at the end of the year in Kazakhstan. The second Regional Qualifying Event of 2017 ITF 12&Under Team Championships in Asia was organized in the South Asian Region and was hosted by the All Nepal Lawn Tennis Association in Kathmandu, Nepal at the Satdobato Tennis Courts Complex.

The South Asian region is represented by Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka & Maldives. Interestingly enough, all 2017 ITF 12&UNDER TEAM COMPETITIONS (ASIAN SWING) countries in the South Asian region participated in the first regional qualifying event of the ITF Asia 12&Under Team Competition. The event which was held from the 15th20th of May, some exciting team ties in the initial days of the tournament. In the Boys category, India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh found the going easy in the initial league rounds of the event registering easy wins to move into the Semi Final stage of the event.

In the Semi Finals stage, Nepal Boys staged an upset when they beat the top seeded Indian team in the deciding Doubles (2 -1), and Bangladesh beat Bhutan to secure their space in the year end Asian Finals. However Bangladesh came over Nepal in the finals, to finish on the top spot of the regional qualifying event (South). In the Girls category, India, Maldives & Nepal consisted of the first league (Group 1), while Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Bangladesh were placed in the second league (Group 2). India, Nepal (from Group 1) and Sri Lanka, Bangladesh (from Group 2), made it to the Semi Finals stage, which decides the qualifiers from the South Asian Regional Qualifying zone. In the Semi Finals stage, India was drawn out to play with Bangladesh while Sri Lanka faced Nepal. Indian and Sri Lankan Girls tamed the challenges of their opponents with an identical margin of 3-0 each, to qualify for the first ever ITF Asian Final Qualifying Event of the 12&Under.

The ITF and ATF are very bullish on the launch of this very important development initiative which bridges the gap between the Tennis 10s & the Junior Tennis Initiative (JTI) programs on the one hand, and the regional 14&Unders Competitive Circuits (Asian 14&Under) on the other hand.

Summary of teams who have already booked their spots in the end of the year Asian 12&Under Finals to be held in Kazakhstan:

Girls:
1. Lebanon (WA)
2. Iran (WA)
3. India (SA)
4. Sri Lanka (SA)

Boys:
1. Qatar (WA)
2. Lebanon (WA)
3. Nepal (SA)
4. Bangladesh (SA)

With the current regional qualifying taking place in Dushanbe, the Capital city of Tajikistan, we will be back with more info on the remaining three ITF Asian 12&Under Team Championships Regional Qualifying Rounds to be held in South East Asia and East Asia, & of course Central Asian swing.
[2017-06-13]

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