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Tennis Looks to Build a Future in Africa Through the McEnroe Brothers

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Over the last few years, Africa has become an attractive destination for sports.

From MMA champions, growing soccer success and the launch and expansion of NBA Africa to the NFL’s expansion into the continent, the world seems to be waking up to the emerging financial and marketing potential that the continent possesses.

The latest sports entry into Africa is tennis, and the interest comes from one of the most respected names in the sport to a nation with no history in the game.

Last week, Insider Expeditions, a leader in global travel excursions, announced a new partnership with John and Patrick McEnroe to bring the tennis legends to Tanzania this December as part of a new goodwill, awareness and sport initiative. In cooperation with and support of the Tanzanian government, the Brothers McEnroe will be accompanied by as many as 120 tennis aficionados during a special eight-day trip that will include the dedication of a tennis court in the Serengeti.

Along with all the media benefits of having the tennis luminaries in the country (and initial talk of a possible documentary after the trip), both McEnroe brothers talked about the great longer-term possibilities a trip like this could have in jumpstarting interest in tennis to a generation never exposed to the sport.

John McEnroe, who captained the U.S. Davis Cup team when they played in Zimbabwe in 2000, remembered the impression he and the team (which boasted both Andre Agassi among others) got when holding a clinic with young people.

“It was amazing to see the interest but you are talking about young people at that time struggling to get by, let alone learn about tennis,” he said. “However, there was interest, and if we can find time, which we should to especially speak to and learn from coaches in Tanzania, it would be a good first step.”

Patrick McEnroe echoed his rothers thoughts on the value of the trip for the sport’s growth.

“I spend a lot of time at the Johnny Mac Tennis Academy in New York with John, and that’s a big goal of ours there to help those kids that, as John said, normally couldn’t afford to try to pursue a pro career or collegiate career, or even just play the sport consistently,” Patrick said. “So we’re going to try to do our part to bring some positive attention to Tanzania, and the rest of the world, to what tennis can do.

“And if we get the opportunity to continue to do that in the future, of course we jump at that opportunity. But this is certainly a great chance to, as John said, do something that is a bucket list type of experience and at the same time hopefully move the needle a little bit as far as getting tennis attention in that part of the world.”

The trip will also feature the construction of a court in the middle of The Serengeti and the opportunity to meet with young people and tennis officials in the country to get a better understanding of the opportunities. A portion of proceeds will benefit the Johnny Mac Tennis Project, which provides inner city kids in New York with opportunities to learn and play tennis, and The Tanzania Youth Coalition. Details on the involvement of the charities will be released in early March.

The excitement in Tanzania seems very palpable.

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