Wimbledon 2011: The boy from Burundi

By Nick HopeBBC Sport at Wimbledon

A Burundi teenager is seeking to act as an inspiration for other African youngsters to forge a tennis career and boost his continent's minimal presence on the tour.

This week Hassan Ndayishimiyeexternal-link became the first player from his country to not only play in a Grand Slam, but win a match, defeating Chile's Matias Sborowitz in the junior boys event at Wimbledon.

"I can't believe it," the 16-year-old Ndayishimiye told BBC Sport at Wimbledon. "It means a lot for me, my country and for kids back at home. I'm sure they're proud of me and hopefully it will inspire them to work hard too."

It was a remarkable achievement because Ndayishimiye had to rely on a wildcard - requested by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) - just for entry to the qualification rounds of the tournament.

"I wasn't even supposed to be here," said the baseliner. "My ranking is not high enough [outside the junior world top 50], but people showed a lot of faith in me and I am really thankful for that."

His breakthrough is even more remarkable in that Africa, apart from traditional tennis countries like South Africa, is the one continent that has been historically under-represented on the tour.

This is perhaps no surprise given that it costs an estimated £100,000 to prepare a player to turn professional.

The difficulties of players emerging from Africa are not confined to finance. For example, Burundi, which borders Rwanda to the north and Tanzania to the east and south, was torn apart by a civil war which began in 1994.

Although it is beginning to show signs of recovery, Burundi is still classed as one of the world's poorest nations - so not surprisingly elite tennis facilities are not in abundance.

So the ITF used its Grand Slam Development Fund to base Ndayishimiye in Pretoria, South Africa, where he has trained and studied for the last two years.

Running since 1986 and relying on contributions from each of the Grand Slam events, the fund helped French Open champion Li Na of China earlier in her career and also provided support to Argentina's 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro, during his junior days.

Last year it contributed over $4m to players and initiatives in developing nations. Tunisia's Ons Jabeur, was one of those to benefit and she became the French Open junior girls' champion in June.

"The whole idea is to improve competitive opportunities worldwide," said ITF executive director of tennis development Dave Miley.

"We've been looking for talented tennis players from developing nations and trying to take them to competitions. We select about 160 players from over 70 countries every year for the Touring Teams [which Ndayishimiye is part of].

The fund provides coaching for promising players and also pays for travel to international tournaments.

"We have had lots of success with the likes of Marcos Baghdatis, Victoria Azarenka and Viktor Troicki, but Hassan Ndayishimiye is an example of exactly what we're try to do, working in Africa and in other parts of the world that haven't previously had many players come through and to help them progress," added Miley.

Ndayishimiye may return to Burundi next year with a new ITF funded centre of excellence set to be opened, but for now he is focusing on honing his skills and improving his junior world ranking, which currently stands at 112.

"I really like Lleyton Hewitt," said Ndayishimiye. "I love the way that he plays with so much energy, I actually try to imitate him in the way that I play.

"If it goes well I'll hopefully be in the top 50 by the end of the year."

Although Ndayishimiye was not able to progress beyond the second round of the junior boys' event - losing 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 to Portugal's Frederico Ferre Silva - he won several admirers and more than justified the faith shown in him by the ITF.

Ndayishimiye will now return to training in South Africa and take part in several continental competitions before the end of the year. He will then begin the process of qualifying for junior Grand Slam events again, from the beginning of 2012.