Zimbabwe will launch their latest bid to scale the heights of Davis Cup tennis when they take on Turkey in a Euro-Africa Zone Group II tie that will be hosted at the Harare Sports Club this weekend.
By Munyaradzi Madzokere
A weekend of riveting Davis Cup action is in store as hosts Zimbabwe clash with their eastern European rivals as the two bid to move to the next stage in their quest for promotion.
The two countries have met twice in the competition with Turkey winning the first meeting by a 5-0 whitewash in Istanbul back in 1983 before Zimbabwe hit back in a 3-0 victory in Plovdiv 10 years ago in their last encounter.
But Turkey, ranked 49th, 24 rungs above Zimbabwe in 73rd place, go into the tie as favourites where the hosts will be banking on home advantage to upset their fancied opponents in the two-day contest.
The Zimbabwe team will draw inspiration from the era of Byron and Wayne Black who staged several upsets on their way to the World Group.
With the draw set to be conducted at the match venue at 10am this morning, Zimbabwe’s target will be to beat Turkey and be guaranteed of playing at the same level for two years.
“The first thing for us is to beat Turkey and it is definitely not going to be easy but it will mean that we are guaranteed of playing in the Euro/Africa next year,” Tennis Zimbabwe (TZ) president Martin Lock said.
“We are also hoping that this fixture will inject a lot of enthusiasm around the sport especially among the young players as well as the corporate community so that we can grow the game further.”
To bring in more numbers to support the team, TZ has since increased the sitting capacity at the venue to 1 000, pegging the entrance fee for the VIP tickets at US$10, with other sections going for US$5 and US$2.
Benjamin Lock, ranked 462 in the world, will enter the singles draw as Zimbabwe’s number one and is likely to play Turkey’s number two Altug Celikbilek, ranked 425, in the opening encounter at 10am tomorrow. Zimbabwe’s number two, Takanyi Garanganga, is likely to get a difficult draw against Cem Ilkel (265), the visitors’ top-ranked player in the other singles rubber of the day.
While Turkey is spoilt for choice for the doubles with Anil Yuksel, Sarp Agabigun and Tuna Altuna also in the pool, Zimbabwe are sweating for an able partner for Lock with youngsters Mark Chigaazira and Mehluli Sibanda the other options.
Non-playing captain Gwinyai Tongoona could be tempted to give Chigaazira his debut to partner Lock on Sunday before the singles reverse fixtures but it will all depend on the outcome of the first day.
The winner of the tie will progress to the second round towards promotion into Group One while the loser will go to the relegation play offs.