By Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S Davis Cup non-playing captain Gwinyai Tongoona was left ruing his team’s failure to make good use of their opportunities following the country’s relegation to the Davis Cup World Group III after a 3-1 loss to EL Salvador at Harare Sports Club on Saturday.
Despite enjoying the advantage of having the support of the home fans behind them, the hosts wilted at crucial moments during the two days of action.
After Benjamin Lock had given Zimbabwe a 1-0 lead with a comfortable win in the opening singles on Friday, Mehluli Sibanda, who replaced the injured Takanyi Garanganga in the team had an opportunity to further stretch the lead but failed to take advantage.
The 22-year-old twice failed to close out the match during the third set of his tie against Marcelo Arevalo after leading 5-2 in the third set and then again 6-4 during the tie-breaker, before his opponent went on to take full advantage.
After Sibanda’s loss, Zimbabwe needed to win the doubles match but despite brothers Benjamin and Courtney Lock winning the first set, they yet again failed to take advantage of the early initiative in a 6-4, 3-6, 2-6 to the pairing of Arevalo and Luis Miralles.
The doubles defeat meant Benjamin desperately needed to win the reverse singles against El Salvador’s Arevalo but he came short as his Central American opponent won the three-set thriller 6-2, 5-7, 6-4.
“Starting with doubles, I think we had a good start winning the first set, but dropped a bit and that’s how the guys (El Salvador) raised their levels in the second set,” Tongoona said after the loss.
“Benjamin could have won his match or it could have gone either way, but, unfortunately, it didn’t work out.”
After spending the past four years in the Davis Cup World Group III, Zimbabwe will now drop to Group II, where they will be back in action in September.
“I think we play in September next, and we will have to see where we will play and against whom,” said Tongoona.
Meanwhile El Salvador captain Yari Bernardo was naturally happy after his side pulled off an upset against Zimbabwe, who were ranked four places higher on the Davis Cup rankings,
“I feel happy for my players, especially Marcelo as he is our number one player and has been playing tough on tour,” he said.
“We have a good team with a good number one and a solid number two player. However, Zimbabwe have four players ranked in the ATP world rankings, and so winning here is a good result for us,” said Bernardo.