IT’S BEEN 11 years since Zimbabwe tennis star Takanyi Garanganga made his first appearance for the country in the Davis Cup as a voracious 16-year-old back in 2017.
BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
And this week at 27, the longest serving member of the current Davis Cup team steps into the court for his 28th tie for the country in a Euro/Africa Group II first round contest against Turkey at Harare Sports Club.
It has not been an easy ride for Garanganga who has had brushes with the Tennis Zimbabwe (TZ) and has so often been accused of snubbing the Davis Cup team at crucial moments.
With a bit of support from the corporate world and the government, Zimbabwe’s number two player currently ranked 506, is the kind of player who would have easily made the top 100 in world rankings, let alone play in Grand Slams.
But as a show of his commitment to serve the country, the US-based player has spent most of his time in the gym and tennis court in preparation for the imminent tie.
The Sports Hub caught up, Garanganga while he worked on his game at Harare Sports Club as he looked back on his experiences playing in the Davis Cup.
“I haven’t had the best times with Davis Cup but just the management part of things, and it’s not just specifically Tennis Zimbabwe (TZ) but the whole of Zimbabwe in terms of sport. But I could say I have always had a good time with my teammates and coaches on the team,” Garanganga said in an exclusive interview
“In terms of the organisation and how Davis Cup is viewed in the world and how TZ views it, we are still very far from where others are. There is more of frustration in that and all this doesn’t make us grow anymore as a country. Then you have the team where you have a good time everytime you play together, so it’s been a mixture of different things,” added.
Making the team at a tender age, Garanganga revealed that it was not what he aimed for but there was no one else available.
“Playing in the Davis Cup was not consciously my idea to play that time. That was the time I started picking up my junior career, I think I was 15 or 16 when I started playing in the Davis Cup. I was top 50 in the world juniors and I started having those ideas of playing junior Grand Slams so my first Davis Cup was more like there was no one playing. I was just the next person in line and I stumbled into this,” he said.
At one stage the tennis star rose up to number 17 on the junior rankings and was looking destined to scale lofty heights in his career.
He reached as high as number 288 in the world at his peak in 2014 and while he tried to chase his own goals, Davis Cup became somewhat a burden which meant sometimes he had to choose.
Garanganga admits that the thought of quitting played in his mind one too many times, and yet he still contends that it would not have been a disaster if he did.
“There were times when it was a challenge. I couldn’t get to ties in time because I would have a tournament somewhere and something has not been organised properly. There was some conflict where we both wanted to go and you just think your voice is not being heard.
“Not necessarily quitting but I thought of focusing my energies on something else but still aid tennis in Zimbabwe. Yes, I contemplated quitting but it didn’t mean I would not be able to assist Zimbabwe with their tennis in so many other ways. The problem is tennis in Zimbabwe is viewed as Davis Cup and quitting Davis Cup would not mean that I am quitting Zimbabwe,” he said.
New captain and former Davis Cup player Gwinyai Tongoona has been working with Garanganga and Mark Chigaazira, with help from his predecessor Martin Dzuwa while two other members Benjamin Lock and Melusi Sibanda have just joined camp.
The Zimbabwe number two spoke of the upcoming fixture against Turkey and what it meant to be back in Euro/Africa Zone Group II.
“I am not neglecting the importance of a tie but I try and approach every match with a mindset that something good can come out of this. The thing is that I am really enjoying my workout prior to this tie,” Garanganga said.
“I really don’t know what being in this group means for Zimbabwe. It’s a question I leave for the association because they create structure for where they want to go with this. For me, it’s an opportunity to perform the art I do. As a player, you want to go a step higher but that process of going to the World Group or just up the ladder is not something you can just recklessly declare.
“It’s really a process where things are put in order. There is need for a big budget to send your players on the ATP tour throughout the year and there has to be funding and the way you prepare has to change. And when those things show, then you can start talking about that. But for me, it’s just an opportunity to play Davis Cup and I am going to perform and give my best. But that’s a question for the whole team, including the administration,” he said.
Many of his followers believe that Garanganga’s recent slump on the rankings is evidence that he is now past his prime and his career is just but over.
But Garanganga is happy with what he has achieved so far and remains as ambitious as he was when he was in his teens.
“The things I wanted to achieve at first, I achieved them, but I was not satisfied. I was top 20 juniors and top 280 in the world but it didn’t feel different so I wanted to do more. I had to be in the top 100, top 50 to be able to play grand slam event and win ATP tour events, but I am yet to get there.
“What I am doing now is fine-tuning my game to improve myself. This is more entertaining and not necessarily the statistics of what people say. I still want to get to top 50 and also to win ATP Tour events, and I will keep working until I get there,” he said.
Overall, Garanganga has won 14 and lost 14 ties in the last decade while he has won five of the 8 doubles rubbers he has played.
And Turkey presents an opportunity to improve his figures.