FORMER South African president and icon Nelson Mandela once remarked, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
Column by Albert Marufu
The above statement resonates with the metamorphosis local tennis is going through with the hosting of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Futures Circuit which ended at Harare Sports Club yesterday.
For seven years, Zimbabwe has failed to host the Futures Circuit, which is the window to professional tennis, enabling young professionals to progress to the ATP Challenger Tour and ultimately the ATP World Tour.
The retired trio of Kevin Ullyett, Wayne and Byron Black, who went on to put Zimbabwe on the tennis world map, also passed through the Futures Circuits.
Zimbabwe’s failure to host such important tournaments meant that local players had to travel around the world where such tournaments were being played and owing to the huge costs involved, most players were forced into early retirement.
Promising players, notably Genius Chidzikwe, Martin Dzuwa, Nigel Badza, Gwinyai Tongoona and the ladies duo of Fadzai Mawisire and Fadzai Masiyazi, just to mention a few, are apt examples of players who never reached their full potential due to lack of playing opportunities at a professional level.
In the end their dreams of becoming professional tennis players never materialised, resulting in most of them retiring early to venture into coaching.
That meant little progress on the sport and death in the production of quality players who could compete in prestigious team tournaments such as the Federation Cup (for women) or the Davis Cup (for men).
Currently, Zimbabwe is competing in the Davis Cup Africa Zone Group Three, which is a sad reality as the country once competed in the Davis Cup World Group. For ladies, there is not a single team to compete in the Fed Cup.
Only a few players, notably Takanyi Garanganga and Benjamin Lock got the chance to travel around the world participating in Futures tournaments.
Even Garanganga himself admits that the high costs of travelling and paying coaches are taking their toll on his parents — the player’s sole sponsor.
Garanganga, who won a gold medal for Zimbabwe at the 2011 All-Africa Games in Maputo, might soon join the growing list of promising local players retiring from the game to take up coaching owing to lack of resources.
The only way to save these players’ careers lies in hosting more Futures Circuits to enable more locals to compete against quality opponents and accumulate world ranking points.
The hosting of the tournament on home soil meant an increased number of local participants with Simbarashe Mtetwa, Mark Fynn, Malcolm Mutungamiri, Tino Chanakira, Taremeredzwa Mariga, Ronzai Saurombe, Terrence Mazungaire, Mark Fynn, Andile Sibanda and Garanganga competing.
In rubbing shoulders with better-equipped foreign players, local players will learn the correct approach to perform well these tournaments.
Not only local players will benefit from these tournaments, as coaches will also get time to measure themselves against others from different countries.
It is against this background that the sponsors of the tournament — Twenty Third Systems Century — should be applauded with hope that they extend the sponsorship to girls as well.
If we have more tournaments such as the just-ended Futures Circuit, then “The storm is over”, as singer R Kelly sung.
Twenty Third Systems Century’s motto on their company logo is “…highway to business excellence”.
Certainly, the route the company has taken of sponsoring a Futures Circuit is the highway to sporting excellence.
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