ZIMBABWE’S leading tennis players are set for a busy winter schedule with three Old Mutual-sponsored International Tennis Federation (ITF) Futures tournaments lined-up for Harare Sports Club between June and July.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Futures tournaments, which are part of the ITF Men’s Circuit, provide an opportunity for upcoming tennis professionals to earn enough rankings points for them to progress to the ATP Challenger Tour and ultimately the full ATP World Tour.
Zimbabwe’s hopefuls, Takanyi Garanganga, brothers Benjamin and Courtney Lock, Mark Fynn and Mehluli Sibanda and participants from across the world are expected to confirm their entries for the three events.
The first event will run from June 12 to 18 before the second tournament scheduled to run from June 19 to 25 while the last event will take place from June 26 to July 2.
Last year, Tennis Zimbabwe (TZ), with the support of Old Mutual, hosted the same number of tournaments with a prize money of $10 000 but have since increased the prize fund to $15 000.
Tennis Zimbabwe president Martin Lock told Sports World that they were grateful for the support from Old Mutual in hosting the tournaments, which has put them in good standing with the governing body of world tennis, ITF.
“Old Mutual has been our perennial sponsors for the ITF Futures events for the last four to five years and because of that support, Zimbabwe now has a very good reputation around the world, especially with the ITF in London, of being able to successfully host these international professional tournaments.
“Hosting these tournaments keeps tennis in Zimbabwe on the world map because we have players coming here from over 30 countries around the world and they always enjoy the experience. We definitely see it as one of the prime events on our calender,” Lock said.
Lock said hosting the ITF Futures events also gives them an opportunity to allocate wild card entries to most local upcoming players, who would ordinarily be required to go through the qualifiers in other countries.
“The ITF Futures events give exposure to all our players, both the juniors and seniors. By hosting these events, we are able to allocate wild cards to some of our upcoming players so that they get the opportunity to play in the main draw and earn some ranking points
The three Old Mutual-sponsored events are expected to go a long way in helping the Zimbabwe Davis Cup team prepare for the Africa Zone Group III promotion tournament where they will battle it out with 14 other nations from July 17-22 in Egypt.
Zimbabwe will be out to regain their place in the Euro/Africa Group II after they were relegated to Africa Zone Group III following their defeat to Finland and Georgia.
“The timing for this year’s events is perfect as most of our Davis Cup squad members will be available and this will give them an opportunity to prepare for the upcoming tournament in Egypt. It’s also an opportunity for the sponsors to see the talent that we are developing,” Lock said.