BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
ZIMBABWE were yesterday handed a tough first round tie in the 2019 Davis Cup Europe/Africa Group II competition after they were drawn to face the group’s top seeds Romania in a draw held at the International Tennis Federation (ITF) offices in London.
Unlike last year when Zimbabwe played their first round match at home before a capacity crowd in the capital, this time around, they will travel to Bucharest, seeking a solid start to enhance their chances of progressing further in the competition.
Romania will have the choice to host the important tennis tie either in April or September.
Zimbabwe Davis Cup team non-playing captain Gwinyai Tongoona said he would have preferred to get their campaign on home soil. He is expecting a tough away tie against the Europeans.
“It’s going to be a very tough match. Romania has a couple of really good players who are playing at the top level so it’s not going to be easy, but we will give it our best. It would also have been nice if we had played at home because last year the crowd was just phenomenal when we hosted Turkey, but unfortunately we will be travelling away which will also work against us,” he said.
Tongoona, who took over from Martin Dzuwa as captain of Zimbabwe’s Davis Cup tennis team in 2017, said he was hoping the team’s key players such as Takanyi Garanganga and the Lock brothers Benjamin and Courtney would stay fit ahead of the crucial tie.
“It’s good that they have been competing regularly in the circuit, hopefully they will stay fit and healthy because it’s going to be a tough tie even if they are there. We don’t want to be in a situation where we are missing key players and end up fielding youngsters in such a crucial tie,” he said.
With a world ranking position of 42, Romania is the highest ranked nation in the Europe/Africa Group II and will start as favourites against number 61 ranked Zimbabwe.
The Romanians will be led by the duo of Marius Copil and Adrian Ungur who are both ranked inside the top 100 on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Rankings, at number 56 and 33, respectively.
The East European nation missed out on promotion to Europe-Africa Group I last year following a narrow 3-2 loss to Poland in a promotion playoff.
In their first two rounds of the competition last year, Romania defeated Luxembourg 4-1 and Morocco 5-0.
Zimbabwe also missed an opportunity to progress to the Euro/Africa Zone Group I promotion play-offs after falling 4-1 to Poland in a Group II second round tie in Sopot in April.
The local side had got their campaign off to a brilliant start after upstaging higher ranked Turkey 3-1 in the Europe/Africa Group II first round at Harare Sports
Club in February ensuring that they retain their spot in the group.