Four CNMI junior tennis players received scholarships from the ITF Training Centre after their notable performance in the regional tournaments this year.
Northern Mariana Islands Tennis Association’s Jeff Race said siblings Coume and Conatsu Kaga, Ji Min Woo, and Seung Jin Paik have accepted the scholarship offers and will train at the TF Training Centre in Lautoka, Fiji next year.
The facility in Fiji is one of the only two regional training centers International Tennis Federation operates. The other one is the ITF/CAT Training Centre in Casablanca, Morocco. Both offer excellent tennis facilities, coaching, competition, and schooling.
According to the Fiji facility website, selected players usually stay at the training center for one month, while stays of more than one month are by invitation only. Race said during the Northern Marianas Sports Association meeting early this month that the four Commonwealth youth players will be at the training center for about a year and they will leave the island in the first quarter of 2017.
While in Fiji, they will stay in the ITF House, attend school, and join a full week’s training program, which includes two daily on-court sessions and regular fitness training sessions. Players will also have a chance to gain slots on the ITF regional junior teams that compete in Australia and New Zealand in January and December.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for our youth players. This will really help them develop their games more,” Race said during the NMSA meeting at the conference room of the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium.
The Kaga sisters, Woo, and Paik were all part of the CNMI Team that dominated 2016 North Pacific Championships held on Saipan last June.
Both Paik and Woo made it to the semifinals of the boys U12 singles event of the North Pacific event with the latter eventually ranked No. 2 in the eight-player field after losing to Guam’s Andrew Leng in the finals. Paik finished third after beating the Federated States of Micronesia’s Freddy Jerson in the other playoff pairing. In the doubles, the CNMI duo won in the finals against Leng and Thomas Ysrael.
Coume was the singles champion in the girls U12 after downing FSM’s Ridianne Wolphagen and placed runner-up (with Anika Camacho) in the doubles. Conatsu, on the other hand, took the girls U14 doubles crown (with Malika Miyawaki) and was ranked third in the singles after defeating fellow CNMI player Maria Gregoire.
The four Commonwealth bets also suited up for the North Pacific Team in the 2016 Pacific Oceania Junior Championships in Fiji with Coume making it to the semis in the singles and doubles. Woo and Paik were the runners-up in the doubles and quarterfinalists in the singles, while Conatsu had the same results (with Miyawaki in the doubles).