Tadious Manyepo in LILONGWE, Malawi
THEY were the top seeds and they did enough to consolidate the grip.
Zimbabwean tennis players scripted a unique piece in the just-ended African Union Sports Council Region 5 Games here.
They claimed every piece of medal available in this sport code as they whitewashed their opponents in a devastating manner.
It was a proud moment to see an all-Zimbabwean contest in the finals in both the boys’ and girls’ singles, mixed doubles and doubles.
The Zimbabwean national anthem was played six times in a space of 15 minutes as the country shipped in all the six gold medals on offer.
That’s the first time, a single country has provided all the semifinalists in every category in the history of the Games which were first played in Maputo, Mozambique in 2004.
The tennis players charmed the whole region with spectators growing in their games which were first played at the Golden Peacock Hotel Courts before moving to Griffin Complex where they attracted even more crowds.
Highly-rated Benedict Badza, who was Zimbabwe’s flag bearer, didn’t disappoint with the lanky athlete winning four gold medals alongside Rufaro Magarira whom he also partnered in the mixed doubles victory.
Badza beat his compatriot Shane Tapera 6-4, 6-3 in the final to win the gold while Magarira was 6-3, 6-4 to the good against teammate Sasha Chimedza in the singles competition.
The combination of Magarira and Badza also outfoxed Chimedza and Tapera in the mixed doubles finals.
Team Zimbabwe tennis coach/manager Farayi Tapfuma was excited with the win.
“It’s a good achievement to have all your athletes on the podium. This is the first time in the history of the AUSC Region 5 Games to have players from a single country sweeping the board like we have done,” said Tapfuma.
“As the leader of the team, I am very happy to have attained this feat.
“I am elated beyond words. I would like to salute the whole team for the performance.
“The players were so exciting and we can only expect the best from them going forward.
“We would like to salute everyone in Zimbabwe for their support”.
The achievement also blew away Tennis Zimbabwe president Biggie Magarira, whose daughter Rufaro won four gold medals.
“I would like to congratulate the coaches Farai (Tapfuma) and Athnie (Chifamba) and our players for such a splendid performance and achievement.
“These resounding results are an outcome of hard work, focus, commitment and team work. This is also extended to the parents and guardians who worked tirelessly in preparing for the AUSC Region 5 Games,” said Magarira.
“This is the beginning of the bigger things ahead as we now work hard towards strengthening our junior and senior teams based on our four-year Strategic Plan which is already under implementation. Tennis Zimbabwe remains committed to the game of tennis as we head for the ITF/ CAT Southern African Zonal Championships in January 2023, Davis Cup in February 2023 and Billie Jean King Cup in May/June 2023.
“Tennis Zimbabwe is grateful to the Sports and Recreation Commission and Zimbabwe Olympic Committee for providing this opportunity to our youngsters as well as the support in preparations towards the Games.”
With tennis stealing the show at the meet, the boys’ volleyball team also broke their gold jinx after coming out first following their 3-1 defeat of South Africa in the final on Saturday night. That brought Zimbabwe’s gold tally to 12. And at the close of the games yesterday, Team Zimbabwe had pocketed a total of 82 medals including 24 silver and 46 bronze.
Cumulatively, the country was second to only South Africa although they were the fourth best in the gold medal-prioritising standings.
Still, that presents a massive improvement by Team Zimbabwe who almost doubled the number of medals which they won in the same event in Lesotho last year.