Takanyi's struggle to the top

HARARE – When Takanyi Garanganga’s father, Brad, thought of the journey he has travelled thus far in trying to take his son to the top, he becomes extremely emotional.

His wish was to see Takanyi playing in the Grand Slams one day. And he appeared on course after Brad laid all the groundwork by putting aside the little savings he was earning during his days when he was still employed.

Takanyi’s progress was sensational and he had the world at his feet. He would break in the top 20 Junior World rankings and would become African Junior Champion while also scooping gold medal at the 2011 All Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique.

At 21, Takanyi was already an integral part of the Zimbabwe Davies Cup team which by then had Mark Fynn, Mbonisi Ndimande and Benjamin Lock while Gwinyai Tongoona was the non-playing captain.

His rise even attracted attention from foreign countries, who were prepared to give him citizenship but the love for his motherland would see him keep a deaf ear to the overtures.

But tennis is an expensive sport and talent alone is not enough. With the country and the corporate world at large failing to play a part, Brad’s coffers eventually ran dry and impacted heavily on Takanyi’s progress, leaving his father a frustrated man.

“Challenges have always been there because it’s extremely expensive sport. In fact, because I knew and people had said Takanyi was talented, I put savings in the bag before he started his programme,” Brad recounts to the Daily News on Sunday.

“We started when he was seven or eight years and that time I used to make some bit of money from where I was employed. It wasn’t that much but I would set savings for him aside. It’s really been a shoestring budget and it pains me a lot thinking of the challenges we went through.

“There were a lot of kids he used to beat who are now in the top 10 but because the country and corporates came to support these kids they managed to run their programme without encountering many obstacles.”

Brad continued: “There is a lot of travelling involved, you need to have a fulltime coach, you need a fitness trainer, nutritionist among others which he couldn’t have. At that level talent alone, it doesn’t work, you need even coaches who scout how opponents play.

“So what has been the most painful is that when he was a kid almost everyone knew Takanyi and was at one point the highest ranked of his age group on the African continent for a number of years but no one really cared about that.

“So those were the most difficult things to deal with on my part. He could have taken any citizenship and I wouldn’t have to work because he would earn a lot of money.

“But he said I’m proud to be Zimbabwean, I’m proud to be African so I expected the country and Africa at large to support him because tennis is extremely expensive.

“To run for a programme, you need at least $20 000 or $30 000 per month and being a civil servant I don’t get such kind of money. The unfortunate thing about tennis is that when you are starting you are trying to play for points so there are a lot of costs involved in travelling, accommodation, coaches and so on.

“Some coaches even wrote to me saying that guy is so talented and his ranking is not a true reflection of his exploits on the court. He has beaten people in the top hundred very easily but to sustain that without a proper system is very difficult.”

And after finally getting his first recognition from the corporate sector when Seed Co handed a $5 000 cheque to Takanyi recently before he left for the United States, his father could not hide his disappointment.

“It’s extremely emotional to me what Seed Co has done. For the past 20 years we have been running from the family coffers, I did exhaust everything so that he is on the road. He has done a lot for the country but no one notices and we are really thrilled about Seed Co,” he said.

Takanyi himself, though, has no hard feelings despite the lack of support for the sport from the government and the corporate world.

“I wouldn’t say any hard feelings because it’s really organic, it happens. I don’t want to use the word hard feelings but it’s difficult, it’s not easy,” said Takanyi.

“I am grateful to Seed Co they took their chance on me for the first time. I would love to see Seed Co playing a more prominent role in the development of tennis in the country. I wish more companies will take those type of chances sponsoring the sport.

“I have been working in my tennis career to try and create this because for the rest of my career I would say my father’s company has been sponsoring me throughout. It’s a risk he took and it’s paying off with Seed Co coming and I hope other situations arise in a positive direction.”

Takanyi is grateful to his father for being there for him since day one.

“He always tries the best he can. There are really no words to thank him for what he has done, and what he is doing for my career.”

Garanganga is now set for the Challengers circuit after a good three weeks playing in the Futures events at home, which he said was good preparation for him.