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Serbian tennis coach says NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia "helped" produce good quality players

by Ben Ochieng

NAIROBI, Mar. 3 (Xinhua) -- A leading Serbian coach said Monday the three month blitz on Yugoslavia by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces lent a hand in producing first-class tennis players.

Dusan Milojkovic, President of Serbia Coaching Committee, told journalists in Nairobi that Serbians went through very hard time during the period between March and 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 organized to forget the problems," Milojkovic told Xinhua in Nairobi on Monday during an occasion to mark 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 molded their play.

Among the female players are former Wimbledon champion and World No. 1 Jelena Jankovic; 2008 World No. 1 Ana Ivanovic; Bojana Jovanovski and Vesna Dolonch.

The NATO bombing of Yugoslavia was a military operation against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War which led to the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo and put an end to the war.

"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 around to finance their travels to attend tournaments."

March 3 was set aside by the International Tennis Federation ( ITF) 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 mark 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.

Maina Kamau, Kenyan Deputy Commissioner of Sports told the over 100 schoolchildren who gathered to mark the occasion to observe discipline and desist from bad habits if they wanted to go far with the game.

"Avoid taking substances that can affect your physical and mental health like drugs and alcohol and also work hard in school. "

Paurvi Rawal, Tennis Kenya president said it was very exciting to see so many young people gathered to celebrate tennis.

"Other sports don't have youth programs for the young ones, 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 only for the rich.

"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.

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