Re: Belgian Davis Cup Team
Davis Cup team faces uphill battle
4 march 2004
By Collin Matiza
THE Zimbabwe Davis Cup tennis team faces an uphill battle in their Euro-African Zone Group One second round tie against Belgium when it was announced yesterday that they will take on the Europeans on their slow red clay court next month.
Tennis Zimbabwe president, Paul Chingoka, told The Herald yesterday that the Belgians have chosen an indoor red clay surface for the tie, which will be played during the weekend of April 9-11 at the Hall Des Sports Avenue De Gaulle 2 in the Belgian city of 7 500 Tournai which is 107km from Brussels.
"They (the Belgians) have obviously gone to a lot of thought about it and they obviously think it is their best surface to beat us on. The red clay surface is, unfortunately, not the favourite surface for our players who will find it to their disadvantage because it is slow. Our players are used to the fast all-weather courts. But I am convinced that we will give them a big surprise," said Chingoka.
Zimbabwean players have always found it difficult to play on red clay surfaces during their Davis Cup ties away from home, especially in Europe, and Chingoka said next month*s tie against Belgium will be no different.
So what will be the key?
"Steadiness is an important factor as will be fitness because of having to play longer points.
"You can*t just charge in. You must be patient and wait for the right opportunity to attack. This means playing out longer points," said Chingoka.
Zimbabwe booked a second-round date with Belgium after beating Greece 3-2 in the opening round at the City Sports Centre here in Harare last month.
But the locals, who will once again be led by seasoned campaigners, Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett, are likely to find the Belgians a different kettle of fish altogether.
The Belgians already have a psychological advantage over Zimbabwe after having beaten them 4-1 in their last meeting in a World Group Qualifying Round tie in September 2002 at the City Sports Centre.
Their trump cards will obviously be the tried and tested trio of Xavier Malisse and the Rochus brothers Olivier and Christophe.
But the man who poses the single greatest threat to the African team*s chances of advancing any further in this year*s competition is Belgian number one Malisse who together with Olivier Rochus engineered Zimbabwe*s defeat the last time out.
According to the latest Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) singles Entry Rankings for 2004, Malisse is currently ranked 58th in the world with 615 points and lies three places ahead of Olivier Rochus (588 points) while Christophe Rochus is at number 113 (357 points).
In contrast, Zimbabwe*s number one player Wayne Black is currently ranked 353 in the world with 85 points while his Davis Cup teammates Genius Chidzikwe and Gwinyai Tongoona are placed 394 and 805 with 71 and 13 points respectively.
Ullyett is not ranked in the ATP Entry Rankings as he only plays doubles on the road.
Although members of the Zimbabwe Davis Cup team are not ranked as highly as their Belgian opponents in the world singles rankings, Chingoka was still optimistic of his team*s chances in next month*s battle.
"Basically I think if any of our players can overcome Malisse our chances are good," said Chingoka.
If Zimbabwe manage to beat Belgium they will qualify for the World Group Qualifying Round which will be played in September while a defeat will see them remaining in the Euro-African Zone Group One for 2005.
Harare Herald, Zimbabwe