WORLD tennis governing body International Tennis Federation (ITF) has paid special tribute to the late former Tennis Zimbabwe (TZ) and Zimbabwe Olympic (ZOC) president Paul Chingoka, crediting him for transforming the sport from an elitist game to one of the most popular sports in the country.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Chingoka, who passed away on Friday, was laid to rest at Warren Hills Cemetery in Harare on Tuesday with people from different walks of life paying their last respects to the seasoned sports administrator.
The ITF, which is the governing body of world tennis, wheelchair tennis, and beach tennis, said it was saddened to learn about Chingoka’s death as he contributed immensely to the development of tennis not only in the country, but the rest of the continent.
“The ITF is saddened to learn of the death of former Tennis Zimbabwe president and ITF board member Paul Chingoka, who died on Friday 13 July following a lengthy illness,” ITF said in a statement.
“Chingoka, who helped transform tennis from an elitist sport to one that became popular throughout the country, saw Zimbabwe compete at the highest level of Davis Cup during his tenure — when the likes of Byron Black, Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyet helped to raise the profile of tennis in Africa during the late nineties.”
Under Chingoka’s leadership, Zimbabwe enjoyed its most successful run in the prestigious Davis Cup tennis competition, earning promotion to the elite World Group in 2000, where they competed against some of the world’s best sides.
The Zimbabwe Davis Cup team during that period was built around the legendary Black brothers — Wayne and Byron and doubles specialist Ullyett.
In addition to the success in the Davis Cup, Chingoka’s tenure at the helm also witnessed the transformation of the sport of tennis from an elitist sport culminating in the rise of black players such as Genius Chidzikwe, Gwinyai Tongoona and Martin Dzuwa, among others.
The London-based body also chronicled Chingoka’s success which saw him receiving the ITF award for services to the game in 1998 in addition to serving on its influential board of directors as well as its several commissions and committees.
Added ITF: “Chingoka was honoured with an ITF award for services to the game in 1998, and sat on the ITF board of directors from 2001-2005. During that time he also held other roles for the ITF, including his position as chairman of the coaches commission, and member of both the development advisors group and the African Zonal Davis Cup committee.”
Chingoka, whose brother Peter is former Zimbabwe Cricket board chairman, became president of Tennis Zimbabwe in 1991, a position he held for over a decade-and-a-half.
He was also president of the Confederation of African Tennis (CAT) from 2003 to 2007.
He was chef de mission of tennis at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and was chef de mission of the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee in Sydney for the 2000 Olympics.
After leaving TZ following a glittering career, Chingoka took over as ZOC boss in 2004 where he also enjoyed similar success until stepping down in 2006.