Six student-athletes, three boys and three girls, will represent the country at the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Asia’s under-14 Development Championships that will be held in Ho Chi-Minh, Vietnam between January 7 and 20.

Bhutan Tennis Federation (BTF) announced the list of players at the end of junior national open tennis championship in Phuentsholing on December 23.

“I always believed that I would be given the opportunity. It’s a dream come true. I am happy that I will be representing the country. I feel blessed and proud of myself,” Tshokey Yezer Nangsel said. “I have been training hard.”

The players were selected based on annual performance ranking. Five of them were trained in Thimphu and one in Phuentsholing.

Jigme Norbu, Thinley Dorji, and Tandin Dorji took part in international training camps and have played international tournaments. Karma Yuden Dorji and Sonam Chuki Dorji also have the international game experience.

Tshokey Nangsel Dorji is the lone player without any international game experience.

Finishing third in the selection ranking in 2016, she was close to representing the country in the previous edition of the championship in Bangkok, Thailand last year.

A total of 16 teams from Bangladesh, South Korea, Maldives, Singapore, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Turkmenistan, Brunei, Laos, Myanmar, Tajikistan, Cambodia, Macau, Pakistan, and Vietnam will take part in the championship.

BTF’s head coach, Tshering Namgay, said that the federation expects the team to perform well. “It is one of the major tournaments in Asia. We would like to give them an opportunity to gain exposure. We encourage youth to take up the sport, not only to get an opportunity to play international tournaments, but also to gain good competitive values and disciplines.”

The federation expects to win a spot in European circuit tour.

Karma Yuden Dorji, the team’s youngest player, said qualifying through the first round is her target. “India and Turkmenistan will be the toughest,” she said. “Lack of enough courts and absence of ball machines hampers the training.”

Thinley Dorji said that he would guide his friends. “We are not as skilled as other players. They will be physically strong and professional,” he said.  “But we will try hard.”

Two highest ranked countries of the championship will be promoted to division 1 ITF Asia U-14 championship in 2019.

Nima and Tenzin Thinley