Junior Hakizumwami is Rwandan tennis prodigy with a herculean forehand and a Nadal-esque work ethic to go with it.
Being the middle child in a family of seven children, the 16-year-old attributes his passion for tennis at an early age to his elder brother, Yannick Muvunyi, whose guidance he acknowledges for having played a crucial role in propelling him to top seed junior tennis player in the region.
“I initially started off playing football until my brother took me to watch him play tennis, and it was at that point that my love for the game was sparked”, Hakizumwami recalls, when asked about his introduction to the sport.
Junior Hakizumwami, 16, is the top ranked tennis player in the East African region in this age category. He is also among the top 10 on the continent. Photo: Courtesy.
Currently enrolled at Nu-Vision High school, the eighth-grader also credits the school’s sports culture for helping him maintain his form, especially considering the difficulty of finding equilibrium between his secondary education and tennis practice.
“I love the school for its dedication to instilling the benefits of sports in their students. It is during the extra-curricular activities after class that I’m able to train for upcoming games”, he said, with a fidgety demeanour like he can’t wait to get back on the clay.
Being in the top 10 of the best junior tennis players on the continent is no easy feat because it requires a dedication to becoming the best at your craft despite the exertion one goes through to get to the top.
Hakizumwami understands this well, which is why he models his game on arguably the best tennis player of all time, Rafael Nadal.
“He [Nadal] is a player I really look up to in terms of playing style, especially his never-die approach to his game. It inspires me a lot.”
On his biggest achievements in tennis so far – and there have been quite a few, Hakizumwami singles out his victory at the 2019 East Africa Junior Championships in Tanzania as the most memorable.
“Winning that competition was very delightful for me because it is what ignited the continuous drive and hunger for more success,” he explains, with a habitual smile on his face, an attitude that quickly dissipates once he steps onto the court.
What separates the youthful prospect from his peers is his industrious movement on the court, an ability that requires lung space in its abundance. He admits he runs out of the lung space on occasion.
“One weakness in my game, which I’m trying to work on, is my inability to finish a match with the same intensity as when I start it”, he reveals, with a borderline modesty.
Ask any athlete where the impetus to be the best in their respective careers stems from the answer will, almost always, lie in the vicinity of having or maintaining a dedicated career routine.
“Discipline… the importance of having discipline has been emphasized to me quite a lot, from my parents to my coaches, because it is what ensures longevity in a person’s career.”