Story by Reynald Ngwarati
ZIMBABWE has set its sights on becoming a tennis powerhouse, by giving youngsters an opportunity to showcase their talent at local and international tournaments.
Having had an era in which the Black siblings raised the national flag high, Tennis Zimbabwe is on a rebuilding exercise with the governing body targeting to roll back the glory days.
On the back of a Davies Cup defeat to Uruguay in February, Tennis Zimbabwe has mapped a way forward to foster junior development and rescue the sport.
In a bid to give some of the prospective champions exposure on the big stage, Zimbabwe sent six Under-12 players to Mozambique to represent the country in the Southern African Junior Teams’ Competition and Under-12 tourney.
“We’ve managed to send a team to Mozambique to compete. It’s a regional team event for the under twelves. We’ve got a team of six players, three boys and three girls. There’s actually been an increase in terms of participation from local athletes. Previously our local athletes were used to just competing against each other, but we didn’t have that global flair. The fact that Zara El-Zein has managed to win a doubles category in the girl’s event is actually a plus for the federation. Looking at the fact that she’s only fifteen and she’s managing to win the under-18 doubles event, I think any nation can celebrate that. She’s not the only one who has done well in terms of the circuits we’ve also had the likes of Tapiwa Muhandagara who recently won the Benoni Super Eight event in South Africa, we’ve also had Badza Benedict,” said Tennis Zimbabwe Technical Director, Linsent Chitiyo.
Reminiscing the glory days, the local tennis mother body is taking the sport to formerly marginalized areas, in line with the second republic’s thrust of leaving no one and no place behind.
“We’ve got a project that we run that is called Junior Tennis Initiative and we have deliverers who are working with different schools, different communities. We are actually having projects where we give these deliverers equipment to go and deliver tennis to those communities. We’re looking at communities where there is no tennis court at all it is just a layman ground or a pure ground and we have facilities, we have equipment that we can actually take to those people,” she added.
The boys trio of Muchengeti Manzungu, Unathi Sithole and Munenyasha Mhlanga beat Botswana U-12, 2-1 on the opening day of the tournament this Tuesday.