Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

Kungoane chases her dream, swapping a hockey stick for a tennis racket

In her youth, she was active in a variety of sports including hockey, tennis, soccer, water polo, athletics and cricket.

A former elite hockey player, Mmamoagi Kungoane has embarked on a new path as she attempts to launch a career as a professional tennis player.

It’s an ambitious goal. Calling Kungoane a ‘pro player’ at this stage is a bit like calling some flour and eggs a ‘cake’, but what she lacks in experience, the versatile 23-year-old athlete makes up for in sporting talent and sheer confidence.

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Born in Soweto, Kungoane was raised by a single mother and her grandparents. At one point, with her family struggling for money, she also spent a year living with her primary school principal.

“Financially we’ve suffered quite a bit throughout my life,” Kungoane said in an interview with Matchkit, which has teamed up with her to assist in raising funds and finding her more support.

“My mother has been retrenched twice, leaving her without work for a lengthy time on different occasions. This left her on the back foot economically, struggling to pay for school fees and other living expenses.”

Full bursaries

Making things a little easier for her mom, and ensuring she received a quality education, Kungoane was able to secure full scholarships in high school at Beaulieu College, where she was head girl in her matric year, and again as an interior architecture student at the University of Pretoria where she received a degree in 2021.

“I’ve learned a lot about persevering during times of adversity. I’ve  managed to stay determined and I’ve never lost focus in wanting to become a professional athlete and an influential businesswoman,” she says.

As an athlete, her best results have been achieved on the hockey field, and after turning out for the national junior team, she went on to be selected for the SA senior women’s training squad.

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In her youth, however, Kungoane was active in a variety of sports including tennis, soccer, water polo, athletics and cricket.

And after being knocked down for 10 months by Covid, she emerged from the pandemic driven with a desire to drop her hockey stick and pick up a tennis racket.

“Tennis has always been my true love. It has a mixture of being heavily technically driven, physically demanding and a dynamic variety of fun,” she says.

“Having been exposed to a variety of other sporting codes, and having played most at a first-team level in high school, I can say tennis is the hardest sport I’ve played and that aspect is what I am drawn to.”

Long road ahead

Kungoane has no record or profile as a player on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) or Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) websites, and the limited available results of her matches thus far suggest she has a long road ahead of her to reach the level that is required to compete on the top-flight international circuit.

She is fully committed, however, having moved to France in October last year where she trains full time at the All In Tennis Academy.

“This journey is filled with a lot of uncertainty and the future is very much unknown,” she admits.

With enough hard work, and sufficient support, she nonetheless believes that she can achieve her dream of becoming a pro player. And more than anything, it is this self-confidence which suggests she might just do it.

“I pride myself in being hard working and disciplined. These qualities run deep within me,” she says.

“While some days are harder mentally than others, my discipline allows me to keep working hard towards my goals.”

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