Lock could have key to tennis revival

ARMED with his tennis racquet and battling to overcome the butterflies in his stomach, Benjamin Lock majestically strode on to the Harare Sports Club tennis court for his first shot at the Zimbabwe Open on a beautiful Sunday afternoon last weekend.

Having cruised to the final, he was expected to win the match, yet he knew an upset was always possible.
After calming himself down, he went on to dispatch Tinashe Chikanda in a straight sets victory of 6-2, 6-3 to clinch the trophy.
Like he had done on his way to the final, Lock played with authority and swagger, his performance belying his tender age of 17.
His sister Stacey (19) played and lost in the women’s final, while their sibling Courtney (14) is on his way up too.
The Locks family is threatening to make Zimbabwean tennis a family affair, echoing the days of Byron, Wayne and Cara Black.
Benjamin’s results and performances at the weekend, coupled with his exploits at various tournaments, have left the former St Johns school boy hogging the tennis limelight.
Zimbabwean tennis has been looking for an international star in recent years and it looks like Lock will fit that bill.
For tennis, after years in which it was ailing and looking as if it was edging towards demise, Lock’s undoubted talent has breathed life into the sport.
At a time when most were convinced that the departure of the Blacks from tennis meant the country would not scale the upper echelons of the Davis Cup heights anytime soon, young and energetic Lock has provided the best evidence yet that the country can re-live the good times served by Byron and Wayne.
“I am happy about the way things have gone for me so far, and winning the Zimbabwe Open is one of the highlights of my career so far because it is the first time I have participated and it’s just great to win your home tournament,” said Lock.
Lock has already had his debut in the Davis Cup and helped Zimbabwe to fifth in the Africa Zone Group 4 by winning all his singles at the tournament that was staged in Morocco in May.
However, a far cry from the World Group Zimbabwe flirted with during the Blacks’ era, the country will be promoted to the Africa Zone Group 3, so gradually progress is being made.
Lock has reason to believe. “My aim is to do as well as those guys (Black brothers). They became national heroes and tennis was a big sport then. I want to play at the highest level of the Davis Cup and I am sure we are making good progress with the young players coming up through the ranks.”
In another of his successful outings, he played in a tournament in Morocco after the Davis Cup tournament where he made it into the finals.
While he believes he has a God- given gift, having been born into a tennis loving family, he attributes his success to the work put in at the International Tennis Federation (ITF) centre.
“All my success has been aided by my enrolment at the International Tennis Federation centre; I can safely say this has been my best year so far since I went there four years ago.”
Lock’s talent was spotted at the age of 13 when he was participating in a tournament in Botswana.
At that time he was enrolled at St Johns school in Zimbabwe, but his performance earned him a place at the high performance centre in Pretoria.
“It’s not easy at all at the ITF Centre; it’s nice but the work is very intense and difficult. The best part though is the traveling. We travel to so many different countries in Africa and abroad. I have achieved some good results this year particularly in tournaments I played in Europe and I am looking forward to my next tournaments.”
It doesn’t get any bigger for him as he is now gunning for the Australian Open in the juniors’ category.
It would be the first time that he plays at a grand slam but he hopes that it will be a start of the long road to stardom.
“I am excited about playing at the Australian Open; it’s any player’s dream to play at such a big stage. I am putting everything into my preparations for it. Before that I am also going to play at the Orange Bowl in Miami and I hope to get good results ahead of Australia.”

 

Kevin Mapasure