Following a 4-1 drubbing at home by Bosnia-Herzegovina last weekend, Tennis Zimbabwe has made it top priority to remain in the fashionable Davis Cup Euro Africa group II, as the team hosts Moldova in the relegation play-off in July.
By Munyaradzi Madzokere
Despite subdued performance by the team, tennis made a huge statement regarding its position on the country’s sporting hierarchy.
A carnival atmosphere pervaded the freshly looking Harare Sports Club hard courts with a tinge of nostalgia as fans turned up to cheer on the beloved team, as well as enjoy a now uncommon opportunity to witness quality tennis action at home.
In an interview with Standardsport, Tennis Zimbabwe president Regis Bhunu expressed surprise at the massive support that the Davis Cup team had last week.
“We were actually surprised by the numbers that came to support the team last week. We thought people had lost interest since it had been a long time without hosting a Davis Cup match at home. It’s now obvious the nation has been waiting for it,” he said.
“Now we are going to do everything in our power to make sure we remain in this group. We hope to have worked on the things we came short on by the time we host Moldova and we expect it to be a lot easier against Moldova considering their player profile,” he added.
Zimbabwe tennis legend Wayne Black’s return to Davis Cup team, 10 years after initially hanging up his racket, could have been an added attraction to last week’s encounter and his doubles partnership with Mark Fynn surely won plaudits, albeit a battling loss.
The Bosnia-Herzegovina match became Black’s swansong as he announced retirement from playing, blaming himself for the doubles loss while making himself available for another role in the team.
“Black is a professional, he may have taken the blame in order not to put pressure on the younger players but he is a profile that we need in our team to inspire the youngsters. He knows how to handle pressure in such high-profile matches,” Bhunu commented.
It’s interesting to note what role Black will get in the Davis Cup team since TZ reckon to be happy with current captain Martin Dzuwa.
Benjamin Lock, Zimbabwe’s number two, earned the country’s only win in the second dead rubber on the last day of the encounter. He beat Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Nerman Fatic 6-3 as the match was called off due to Fatic’s illness.
Lock’s grit against the visitors’ number 89th ranked Damir Dzumhur on the first day is cause for confidence for team Zimbabwe but top player Takanyi Garanganga seemed to crumble under the pressure of playing in front of the home crowd.
Fynn, who relished the opportunity to play alongside Black, gave a good account of himself and barring any new twists in Black’s retirement. Tinos Chanakira looks set to regain his place in the side for Moldova match.
Another defeat for Zimbabwe in their next Davis Cup assignment will mean relegation to group three and goodbye to hosting Davis Cup matches for a while.