BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
TENNIS ace Benjamin Lock says being asked to carry the Zimbabwe flag at last week’s opening ceremony of the African Games in Morocco is by far the proudest moment of his professional career and hopes it will inspire him in his bid to book a ticket to next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
The 12th African Games, which run until August 31, were officially opened at the Prince Moulay Abdellah stadium in Rabat on Monday night and Lock said he was thrilled to be given the honour of leading Team Zimbabwe at the multi-coded event.
“It was a huge privilege and a massive honour to lead my country and fellow athletes into the Games,” Lock told The Sports Hub in an interview last week.
“I had goosebumps holding the flag for the entire ceremony. I’m grateful for Zimbabwe sports for giving me that chance and it is one of the proudest moments of my life!”
The tennis tournament at the African Games in Morocco has attracted the strongest field in the history of the continental championship as they will, for the first time, offer direct qualification for the Olympics to the gold medal winners.
The 26-year-old Davis Cup star has been in great form, securing one singles and two doubles titles on the ITF World Tennis Tour since the beginning of the year.
A good player on the clay surface, which will be used in Morocco, Lock is confident of doing well both in singles and doubles where he will partner his brother Courtney.
“I play well on clay and I have played most of the European summer on clay, so I feel confident to perform well,” he said.
“My mentality this week is to assert dominance in my matches and to play loose and stress-free.
“I’ve told myself that no matter the outcome, I’m going to enjoy playing the game. I love representing my country.
“For the doubles event Courtney and I are very confident and are looking forward to the challenges that await us. We feel very confident and very excited to play together for our first time in the games.”
Lock is one of the seven Zimbabwean tennis players featuring in the African Games together with Courtney, Mehluli Sibanda, Valeria Bhunu, Beverly Bhunu, Beverly Matsiwe and Takanyi Garanganga, who won a gold medal at the 2011 African Games in Mozambique.
He feels the Zimbabwe tennis team, which is accompanied by coach/manager Linset Chitiyo, will be one of the favourites for the Games.
“We are all playing well and we have one of the strongest teams here for sure and other nations see Zimbabwe as the team to beat,” he said.
Previously known as the All Africa Games, the African Games is an important multi-coded sports event and the highest pinnacle of continental games held every four year — one year before the Olympic Games.
Tennis is one of the 18 sports codes together with athletics, rowing, canoeing, karate, swimming, weightlifting, beach volleyball, cycling, judo, wrestling, taekwondo, table tennis, fencing, sports shooting, archery, badminton and triathlon, which will all offer chances to qualify for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.