ZIMBABWE Davis Cup legend Wayne Black will not be part of the team that will travel to Finland for an important Euro/Africa Group II first round encounter slated for March 4-6 in Kittila. By Munyaradzi Madzokere
Black has been part of the team since Zimbabwe qualified into Group II as he came out of retirement at the age of 41 to feature in the home defeat to Bosnia /Herzegovina in March last year and also sat on the bench alongside captain Martin Dzuwa in the relegation playoff win at home against Moldova in July.
A veteran of 30 Davies Cup ties in which he recorded 47 wins and 31 defeats before he retired again last year, Black was part of the team that dismantled Finland 4-1 at the City Sports Centre in September 2006 in the only other meeting between the two teams.
His little knowledge of the opponents and vast experience would have come in handy for the inexperienced Zimbabwe team on a rare away Davis Cup fixture in Scandinavia.
“I can confirm that [Wayne] Black will not be part of the Davis Cup team that will travel to Finland. He has made it clear that he wants to assist only in home matches from the onset and he is not keen to travel with the team,” Tennis Zimbabwe president Regis Bhunu said.
“We appreciate his contribution, value his experience and we also respect his wishes. Should we feel that we have a crisis in the teams we will not hesitate to approach him and ask him to consider travelling with the team, but at the moment we are very confident of doing well in Finland with the team that we have.”
Interestingly, Finland, non-playing captain Kim Tiilikainem was part of the team that visited Zimbabwe in 2006 where he lost both of the rubbers he played, one which was a singles match and another, a doubles encounter.
Finland, who are currently ranked 55, 10 places above Zimbabwe, would be buoyed by the return of 34-year-old veteran Jarkko Nieminem who retired from competitive tennis late last year when he was ranked 162 in the world.
Nieminem is likely going to be joined in the team by Henri Kontinem, ranked 30th on the doubles ranking, as well as Henrik Sillanpaa and Micke Continem.
Bhunu gave an update of the preparations for the impending Finland tie.
“We are currently working flat out to acquire more sponsors for the trip to Finland and our main Davis Cup sponsors have promised to assist us, but we are still in discussion as to how much. We are spreading our wings to ensure that we get enough sponsors to give our boys adequate preparations,” he said.
“Our players are ready for the tie, but we would love them to have camp somewhere near Finland because we realise it’s important that they train together as well as acclimatise to the conditions in Finland. The country they will go for camping will depend with the captain.”
Zimbabwe is set to name an initial five-member team this week which will then be reduced to four, 10 days before the competition.
Baring injuries, Takanyi Garanganga, Benjamin and Courtney Lock and Mark Fynn are set to retain their places in the team.
France-based Tadiwa Chinamo, who was part of the team that played Moldova could be picked again as the extra player in the team.
Captain Dzuwa has expressed his interest in camping in the Netherlands in preparation for the Euro Africa Group II first round tie in which the losers will go back to the relegation play-off and winners move a step towards promotion into Group I, which is a rung below the elite World Group.