ZIMBABWE tennis is on the brink of taking another seemingly unpreventable step into the backwoods when one of their weakest sides ever assembled come up a
gainst Greece in a Davis Cup Euro-Africa Zone Group Two relegation play-off tie in the Greek city of Thessaloniki, beginning today.
Zimbabwe lost their last tie 4-1 at home to Norway a few months back, leaving them to fight for their hard-attained place on the world tennis map.
While the Greek are not the toughest opponents in the world, at home against an ordinary Zimbabwean, they will be clear favourites to prevail over the visitors.
Certainly Zimbabwe could have had a better chance to win if Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett, the last two world-class players of their best generation, were around. In any case, Zimbabwe would not have been in these play-offs had these two played in the last two assignments.
Zimbabwe need a new generation of tennis players to scale the same heights as those of the Black brothers and Ullyett. The current crop has been an unproductive generation.
Zimbabwe’s current best player, Genius Chidzikwe, who is entered as Zimbabwe’s second seed for the Greece tie, has been a stand in player for Zimbabwe since the heydays of “Black power”.
Chidzikwe has shown undeniable qualities in loyalty, purpose and hard work. His demeanour is good too; but sadly for Zimbabwe, and for the Mutare-born player himself, he lacks the world-class superlative to go with it. He has less of the athleticism and powerful return of Wayne Black, less of the strong play, and certainly fewer singles and doubles game permutation than Ullyett.
This is no unjust criticism for Chidzikwe. For all the resources invested in him by tennis authorities, he should have been Zimbabwe’s next best thing. He went to St Georges College where his raw talents were honed, and like his teammates such as number one seed Gwinyai Tongoona, he is a beneficiary of US universities tennis scholarships.
Chidzikwe is currently ranked number 662 in the world, while Tongoona is number 1 070.
Rankings will count for less in this encounter. The Greek players, including their top player, Nikos Rovas, do not have stunning standings in the world. Zimbabwe will hope that the Greeks give them a bit of respect. Without that, it could be another forgettable trip for the southern African side.