WAYNE Black might have surprised some by his decision to come out of retirement at the age of 41, but could well be the joker in the pack for the Zimbabwe Davis Cup tennis team in their 2015 Euro-Africa Zone Group II tie against Bosnia-Herzegovina starting on Friday.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
The former Zimbabwe tennis star last played a Davis Cup match in a Europe/Africa Group I relegation play-off tie against Israel in 2005 and hasn’t played on tour since reaching the semi-finals of the mixed doubles at Wimbledon in 2006.
Black — a doubles specialist during his illustrious career which saw him netting a total of $3 300 258 in prize money — is expected to play the in the crucial doubles encounter at Harare Sports Club on Saturday.
Zimbabwe’s current number one tennis player Takanyi Garanganga said he had been enjoying Black’s company since his arrival in the country last week and was confident the veteran player would make an important contribution for the team both on and off the court.
“It’s good to have Wayne on the team. We have been chatting and practising together since I arrived last week and he still hits a very good ball I must say. We are all looking forward to hearing some of his input over the next few days when the whole team is in town. He will obviously chip in with some advice which will be very valuable to the team,” said Garanganga.
Black won two men’s doubles Grand Slam titles (2001 US Open and 2005 Australian Open) with compatriot Kevin Ullyett and two Grand Slam mixed doubles titles (2002 French Open and 2004 Wimbledon) with Sister Cara.
While admitting that he was no longer that fiery player who earned the nickname “Shumba” at the pick of his career, Black said in an interview soon after his comeback that he still had a lot to offer for the team.
“I hope my presence will inspire the boys a little bit. I can offer some words of encouragement from my experience. I always want to contribute something for my country. I have been away from the game for 10 years now so it is a little bit exciting to get back into it. It would be good if I can help with some advice as well,” he said.
The 2015 Euro-Africa Zone Group II tie between Zimbabwe and Bosnia-Herzegovina will see the two teams taking on each other in a best-of-five rubbers format to be played from Friday to Sunday on the hard outdoor courts at Harare Sports Club.
The two teams will play each other in two singles matches on Friday, a doubles on Saturday and then the reverse singles on Sunday.
Meanwhile, South African referee Ian Smith will take charge of the 2015 Euro-Africa Zone Group II between Zimbabwe and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Smith who holds an ITF Gold Badge (highest qualification) is one of the most experienced and qualified officials on the continent, having officiated internationally at all the Grand Slams as well as Davis and Fed Cup.
The seasoned official on Monday conducted an officiating course to 25 participants drawn from around the country.