Ellina Mhlanga-Senior Sports Reporter
TENNIS Zimbabwe are hopeful of a successful year as they prepare for various forthcoming regional and international events.
They had an encouraging start with the Under-14 and Under-16 girls teams posting some impressive performances at the International Tennis Federation and Confederation of African Tennis (ITF/CAT) Southern African Junior Individual and Teams Championships recently in Namibia.
The Under-14 girls were crowned champions in their age-group and the Under-16s were second in their category.
TZ are now looking forward to the Davis Cup World Group II Play-offs tie in which Zimbabwe will face Hong Kong at the Victoria Park Tennis Stadium on February 3 and 4.
TZ general manager Kupakwashe Mukurumbira said they would want to improve the standard of the sport through different initiatives as well as supporting players for various competitions.
“As spelt out in our four-year strategic plan our vision is to make Zimbabwe “A World Class Tennis Nation.” We are anticipating that 2024 will be a successful tennis season with players winning competitions at different levels.
“TZ activities lined up for 2024 are meant to help us build a solid foundation in realising our vision.
“Rolling out the implementation of the Junior Tennis Initiative in partnership with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in all the 10 provinces of the country will be key in increasing the participation in tennis from grassroots with the ultimate goal of improving performances.
“Development camps will be organised for preparing our development squads and national teams for competitions.”
However, their immediate task is finalising the preparations for the Davis Cup tie against Hong Kong.
“Davis Cup tie preparations commenced in the last quarter of 2023. Players rested slightly during the festive holiday and have now resumed preparations.
“Significant progress has been made the team captain and technical office has been closely monitoring player performance and fitness for the upcoming tie. Players have been participating in different ATP, ITF Tour competitions in the USA, Mexico, Hong Kong and South Africa (in) preparation for the upcoming tie,” said Mukurumbira.
In the last assignment, Zimbabwe were represented by Benjamin Lock, who is the country’s top player, Liberty Nzula, Benedict Badza and Takura Mhwandagara. They were led by captain Takanyi Garanganga.
Courtney Lock, who has been part of the team for some time missed the Africa Group III event due to an injury.
Mukurumbira said they will be announcing the team for the upcoming tie in the last week of January.
In a move expected to broaden the selection base when it comes to the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup teams, the national association introduced development squads with some of the players joining the teams for exposure.
Badza and Mhwandagara, who made the team for the Africa Group III event last August were part of the initiative.
“Tennis Zimbabwe introduced development squads for potential players into the Davis Cup and Billie Jean Cup as an initiative to broaden and groom potential players monitored by team captains and the technical office.
“Tennis Zimbabwe is engaging strategic private partnerships with High Performance Centres in the region and abroad for high performance training of potential players in consultation with the ITF Regional Development Officer.
“At the grassroots level we are implementing the Junior Tennis Initiative in the 10 provinces of the country in partnership with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
“The thrust of the programme is to increase participation in tennis and build a pool of players from which talent will be identified and developed from grassroots to elite level,” said Mukurumbira.
Apart from the Davis Cup, other major competitions TZ is looking at include the African Games in March and the Billie Jean King Cup between June and July.
TZ are set to host several ITF South Central Under-18 events. The junior tournaments have become a permanent feature on the national calendar.