A former apprentice of the late great Don Black, father to the golden generation of the Black siblings Byron, Wayne and Cara, Zimbabwe Davis Cup star — Mark Fynn — remains the country’s unsung tennis hero.
By Munyaradzi Madzokere
He does not own any grand slam titles, either in singles or doubles; neither is he a recognised tennis player in world tennis, but his contribution to Zimbabwe’s cause especially in the Davis Cup cannot go unnoticed.
Ever since he made his debut for Zimbabwe in Bulgaria back in 2008 in a Davis Cup Group III tournament, the doubles specialist has never looked back and has grown to become a vital cog in the team.
In that event, the Zimbabwe team that also had Takanyi Garanganga and Mlandeli Ndlela sadly lost against Turkey (0-3), Montenegro (0-3), Cote D’Ivoire (1-2), Madagascar (0-3) and Bulgaria (0-3) to be eventually relegated to the Europe/Africa Zone Group IV.
However, his Davis Cup record in doubles is quite remarkable, standing at 12 wins and six defeats in a team where he has changed partners time and again.
Having partnered his child icon Wayne Black in the doubles against Bosnia-Herzegovina in March this year, albeit in a losing cause, Fynn has yet another new partner in 18-year-old Courtney Lock as the team battles Moldova in a Davis Cup tie which ends today.
For him this is exactly what his childhood dreams were made of when he decided to pursue a tennis career.
“To be honest, back then when I started playing tennis my dream was to play [in the] Davis Cup for Zimbabwe, especially in a situation like the one we have now with Moldova,” he told Standardsport on the sidelines of a Davis Cup training camp last week
“I grew up going to the City Sports Centre watching Byron, Wayne and Kevin Ullyet, those sort of people playing, and I was watching them at a really young age from around 7 and 8 years old. So of course, at that time it’s always a dream to represent your country which I have been fortunate to do for the past seven years,” he said.
Growing up as a farm boy in Triloni and later Darwindale, the former Lomagundi primary school student would occasionally be sent by his father Anthony for tennis lessons with the legendary Don Black during holidays.
He still has fond memories of the man whose name will forever be etched in Zimbabwe tennis folklore and the session they had on their backyard grass courts where the Black siblings leant their trade.
“I remember him very well. He had incredible knowledge and information that he shared whenever I was there for training sessions. He also made me work very hard during training and it was amazing how I managed to go through just a single hour of training.
“It felt like you had been there for a lot longer than an hour because you had to hit so many balls and I learnt so much in that time,” recalled the University of Tennessee Chattanooga graduate.
Now based in Instanbul, Turkey where he is at the KOZA World of Sports Academy and playing tennis, 30-year-old Fynn is very happy with his doubles role in the Davis Cup team.
“I decided at a very young age that I would prefer to play doubles because I just enjoy those quick games where you serve and rush to the nets playing quicker points, so I am more comfortable playing the doubles. With the way that Benjy [Lock] and Takanyi are playing in singles, they are playing really well so I feel my role brings balance to the team,” he said.
Fynn comes from a tennis-craze family where his parents Antony and Jenniffer are avid lovers of the game, having been casual players themselves.
His three siblings — elder sister Kimberly and two younger brothers Shaun and Nick — all played a lot of tennis at junior level although they decided to pursue other avenues later on.
Fynn said his best moments in tennis so far are found in the Davis Cup in spite of the fact that he won an ITF Futures doubles titles barely two year ago in Turkey.
“I have to say that I have two best moments in my career so far. The first was when we qualified for the Davis Cup Group II in Egypt last September because we had come so close a lot of times. It was a really phenomenal feeling,” revealed Fynn.
“The other best moment was when we played at home in Davis Cup back in March. It was a really special moment for me because I had a chance to play with a legend like Wayne [Black], and with the home crowd cheering it was an unbelievable experience,” he added.
Now at a ripe age of 30, he wants to be part of the Davis Cup team for as long as he can play but for him, first thing’s first.
“Right now I am only thinking about getting through this tie with Moldova because it would be a very big thing for us to stay in Group II for next year because it will mean we can have more home ties just like we have had this year, which is good for the whole of Zimbabwe especially tennis fans,” he said.
Away from the Davis Cup his immediate focus is to keep playing ITF tournaments in Turkey and improve his world ranking so that he can play in bigger international tournaments. Another immediate aim for him is to do well for Zimbabwe at this year’s All Africa Games.