Ellina Mhlanga Harare Bureau
TENNIS Zimbabwe president Regis Bhunu says they are hopeful the Davis Cup team to take on Finland in the Europe/Africa Zone Group II tie this week will fly the national flag high. Zimbabwe have a date against Finland from Friday to Sunday as they start their campaign for promotion into Group I.
They will then play either Georgia or Denmark in July in the second round. The team consists of captain Martin Dzuwa, Takanyi Garanganga, Mark Fynn and Courtney Lock. The trio of Dzuwa, Fynn and Lock are already in Finland while Garanganga still has some visa challenges.
Bhunu yesterday said they expected him to join the rest of the team soon. The hosts are going into this tie as the favourites ranked 55th in the world while the visitors are 65th on the globe.
Finland’s team is made up of Jarkko Nieminen, ranked 271, Harri Heliovaara (863), Eero Vasa (1,301) and Henri Kontinen, not ranked, comes in as the fourth player.
Kim Tiilikainen is the captain.
And looking at the rankings, the hosts appear to have the upper hand with Zimbabwe’s top player Garanganga ranked 541 while Fynn is in 1,159th place and Courtney is ranked 2,150.
Zimbabwe will be missing their number two player, Benjamin Lock, who withdrew from the team because of college commitments in the United States.
Bhunu said they remain optimistic of a positive result in Finland but feels the absence of Lock would be felt.
“Takanyi had some visa issues, which are being resolved but otherwise the rest of the guys are in Finland.
“Benji hasn’t managed to travel because of college commitments. It’s a big dent to us because Benji has become quite very strong these days.
“Yes there are other players but he has become more experienced. For example, Courtney doesn’t have that level of experience, so it exerts pressure on the team.
“We still have a chance but we would have had better chances with Benji. We’re going to play and see what’s going to happen but we’ll go and do our best . . . All I’m saying is that it would have been much better based on the strength of Benji,” said Bhunu.
After managing to remain in Group II last year, Bhunu said they are targeting promotion into Group I and believes the future is bright for Zimbabwean tennis.
“Our focus this year is to get promotion. In the event this doesn’t happen our second plan will be survival because there’s nothing much we can do because it’s now about results.
“Our team is becoming strong, they’re maturing. Mark is now on another level, he’s much experienced, Takanyi is becoming experienced and Benji as well.
“We feel in the next couple of years our Davis Cup team will be strong. So whatever happens this year we’ve a chance to bounce back. “There’s a pool of youngsters who are playing well, the likes of Courtney, Mehluli Sibanda and Tadiwa Chinamo, they’re promising young players.
“The moment we’ve a pool of players there’s competition in the team,” said the TZ president. Zimbabwe’s second tie is in July.
However, it’s this weekend’s clash against Finland that will determine whether they will be continuing with their quest for success to earn promotion or they will be going for the relegation play-offs when they meet either Georgia or Denmark.
If they win the two ties in the first and second round, they will then go for the play-offs for promotion in September.