FORMER Zimbabwe Davis Cup tennis ace Martin Lock rose to prominence in 1973 after breaking into the Rhodesia Under-14 junior team. His call up into the national team came on the back of an impressive run on the domestic scene where he had won the Mashonaland Juniors singles, doubles and mixed doubles.
His love for tennis began from playing the sport on tobacco barns out in Macheke in the 1960’s, then went on to lead St Georges College to numerous accolades at the schools scene. In 1977, Lock was named captain of the Rhodesia Under-18 team and led the team to the South Africa National Championships held later that year.
In 1981, Martin Lock enrolled at Morehead State University in Kentucky on a tennis scholarship and began to compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Ohio Valley Conference. The former St Georges student graduated in 1985 with a Marketing and Economics Degree and returned home to Zimbabwe.
He would join the Zimbabwe Davies Cup team in 1987 before briefly calling time on his career in 1990.He however came back as a 34-year-old as the “old war horse” to battle for the Zimbabwe Open Championship in 1993. A title he won after beating Allen Hounsell in a tightly contested final that went all of 5 gruelling sets.
Ironically that same year, Lock gave Zimbabwe one of its brightest potentials, in Florida State University based, Benjamin. Lock senior’s face brightens up when he talks about his sons who have become a chip off the old block.
“Their desire and fire to play for their country is tremendous, and if they can keep focused then they will go far. I always tell them to take a Zimbabwe flag wherever they go to remind them who they are playing for. ” he said. Lock believes he still has a lot to give back to the sport that brought him fame through playing and administration.
“My philosophy is that tennis has given me so much, be it the privilege of playing for my country, a university education and travelling the globe,” Lock tells ZimLegends. “I just want to put back into the country, so that aspiring juniors will get the same opportunity that I had. If you don’t put your shoulder to the wheel things will slide,” he said.
Perhaps he had the best days of his career in the late 1980’s helping retain the Zimbabwe Davis Cup team stay in the Euro-Africa Group Zone 1. In that golden generation, Lock partnered the likes of Byron Black, Greig Rodger, Orlando Lourenco, Haroon Ismail, Graham Martin and Malcom Birch as Zimbabwe rose to become one of the most feared tennis playing nations in Africa. However, three decades on, many things have indeed changed and Zimbabwe are no longer the powerhouse they used to be.
In a space of under two decades Zimbabwe have not only tumbled into the unfancied Euro-Africa Group Zone II but have further dropped into the last tier Euro-Africa Group Zone III. However Martin’s sons Benjamin and Courtney’s recent exploits are providing evidence that Zimbabwe can re-live the good times of days gone by. The two teenage sensations have virtually taken Zimbabwean tennis by storm and if they remain composed then Byron and Wayne Blacks records may soon come under threat.
“The Black family were unprecedented in their achievements and ambassadorial role for our country and have been wonderful role models for my boys,” he says. However, the unassuming Lock senior believes Zimbabwe’s revival will need every stakeholder to put their hands on deck to help resuscitate the sport to the upper echelons of Davis Cup heights.
“We have always said we are in a building phase and it takes the all-round commitment of all the stake holders of the game, the Corporates, the Zimbabwe Tennis Administration (ZTA) and the tennis players themselves if we want to excel,” He says.
“I can tell you that in the ZTA there are people who work tirelessly for no gain. I have no doubt in the talent we have in Zimbabwe whether it be Takanyi Garanganga who is playing on the world tour, Tendai Tapfuma our top junior in the country and a whole lot of other talent that is coming through,” Lock says.