For 10 years, Zimbabwe tennis legend Wayne Black has been out of competitive tennis, and understandably, it took him just two minutes to decide on coming out of retirement for the country’s Euro/Africa Zone Group II tie against Bosnia-Herzegovina next month.
BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
Black has already dusted his rackets, hung a long time ago and is in full swing training to reshape himself.
By his own admission, at 41, he is no longer that fiery player who earned the nickname “Shumba” at the height of his game when Zimbabwe humbled giants like Australia in their own backyard in the same competition.
Even if he has downplayed himself on getting back to his old lethal self, can Zimbabwe once again dance to Shumba’s beat?
“No way, not even close would I get to my old self. I am too old now,” said Black.
“I missed the Davis Cup quite a lot. I missed the good times we had 10 or 15 years ago. Tanya Chinamo [Tennis Zimbabwe convener of selectors] and coach Martin Dzuwa asked me if I am willing to come and help the guys. I thought about it for two minutes and I said yes, I would love to.
“I hope my presence will inspire the boys a little bit. I can offer some words of encouragement from my experience.”
Spending 10 years away from competitive action, an athlete would obviously become rusty, usually beyond return.
But Black last week oozed energy and a respectable level of fitness during training at his boyhood home, Harare Sports Club.
Spotting a Zimbabwe bird tattoo on his left arm, he said his return is driven by patriotism and unending passion for the game that afforded him international stardom.
“The energy and passion is however still there in me. I always want to contribute something for my country. I have been away from the game for 10 years now so it is a little bit exciting to get back into it. It would be good if I can help with some advice as well,” he said.
Having kept himself with farming raspberries and running a bed and breakfast business since his return from the UK in 2009, Black has not been out of touch with tennis.
Coaching kids in the UK and locally has kept his love for tennis flowing over the years.
His three-year dance in the Davis Cup World Group including reaching the quarterfinals in 1998, grand slam flirtation and two-time appearance at the Olympic Games, Black’s experience of the game is undoubted.
But he has returned to work with a different generation altogether after departing from the Davis Cup scene in the early 2000s.
With his brother Byron and Kevin Ullyett also leaving the team, Zimbabwe plunged into a downward spiral, landing into the lowest rung of the Davis Cup with no hope of returning to the challenging stages of the tournament.
But then Takanyi Garanganga, Benjamin Lock, Mark Fynn and Tinotenda Chanakira last year steered Zimbabwe into the Euro/Africa Zone Group II, just two tiers below the elite Group.
A doubles expert, Black could partner Lock or Fynn and sees a lot of potential in this team.
“I have not yet been in touch with the other guys. I think they are coming in a couple of weeks and we would be together for two weeks before the match,” said Black.
“I am excited with the potential in the team. I have however not seen Takanyi or Benjie [Lock] play so I am looking forward to be with them all the way cheering them. Yes, I have been following them. I heard Takanyi has been winning in the last couple of tournaments. Benjie is also doing well at college. I think it would be a few years before we get back there [World Group]. It is a possibility.
“More of these matches will come with experience, which is crucial. Benjie is still young and has to come out of university and get out on the tour for a few years. So it is all about experience.”
With City Sports Centre now a hub of church services and music shows, Harare Sports Club’s hard outdoor court will host the Bosnia-Herzegovina assignment which is scheduled for March 6 to 8.
“I think here [Harare Sports Club] is fine. Nowhere is better than Harare Sports Club in Zimbabwe,” Black said.
Zimbabwe has played for more years in the Davis Cup than their opponents who have featured for 19 years against the locals’ 38.
Tomislav Brkic, Mirza Basic, Damir Dzumhur and Neman Fatic form the Bosnia-Herzegovina youthful squad.
Their recent form is last year’s win over Greece and Finland as well as a loss to Lithuania.
“I have been reading about Bosnia-Herzegovina and looking at their recent past results. On paper they are good and much better than us.
But we have an advantage, we are at home and have determined youngsters so I think we can cause an upset,” Black said.
His continued involvement as a player is subject to Zimabbwe’s performance against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“I will see how this match goes. If we win this match I will see how it happens in the next one. I will take it one step at a time,” he said.