ZIMBABWE tennis ace Takanyi Garanganga can be described as an enigma.
Not only is the highly talented player a philosophical, self-confessed atheist, but at 22, he does not have a girlfriend and is not even searching for one.
"Relationships for me are difficult. A relationship is work itself in the sense that you bring someone into your life when you are still to discover yourself. You end up causing heartbreaks and that is something I can't stomach," he said.
"My sport is very selfish and one needs to decide what they want at an early age. That is what I did."
It is that determination that has spurred him to win tournaments such as the African Junior Championship and the Under-14 Circuit from the age of 14.
The feat saw him moving to the United States after catching the eye of former Zimbabwe tennis player Brian de Villiers.
"The opportunity allowed me to compete with some of the best tennis players in the world. I was doing my online education as well as playing tennis and graduated from high school in 2008 at Keystone National high school," Garanganga said.
"I had my successes and at 18, I was ranked number 16 in the world. I played at the US Open, Junior Wimbledon Championship and was constantly on the ITF Junior World Tours. That gave me the exposure which helped me in making the decision to turn professional at 18 instead of going to college. I had offers from the University of Georgia and University of Illinois, but turned them down to concentrate on the sport I love."
He added that parents should know that in tennis one has to invest before thinking of benefits.
"Recently I won the Futures tournament and got US$1 300. To some people that is a lot of money but I had spent something close to US$7 000 in coming to participate in the tournament. I do not want people to believe that we earn a lot of money. I am probably broke myself," said Garanganga. The Mbare-born tennis ace who keeps his hair unkempt to "remain close to his roots" says he derives inspiration from his name and his necklaces.
"The name Takanyi belongs to a liberation war hero and it means 'Warrior'. My father Bradwell is my inspiration and he saw a warrior in me when I was born. The name belonged to a liberation war hero. 'Mukoma Takanyi' was a liberation war hero. This is not politics but the liberation war was fought so that we can be able to make our own decisions and that is what I do," said Garanganga who is coached by former world number 22, Agenor.
However, a rebellious tinge strikes out in the young man as his demeanour betrays his refusal to conform to societal norms.
"My hair is the way it is because our forefathers lived like this as there were no barber shops. Again this is not politics. It is just me. The necklaces I wear also have a meaning.
"I'm of the garwe totem, that's why I wear this necklace, which was a crocodile tooth," said Garanganga whose father was his first coach at Stodart Hall in Mbare.
"I draw much of my inspiration from music especially rap music and hip hop. I identify with the music as it talks about the day-to-day lives of black people. Though they will be singing about life in America, it talks about everyday struggles," he quips.
On his religion, Garanganga, who attended Alexandria Park Primary school said he does not believe in anything besides himself.
"I am not religious and only believe in my nature. Me and gods do not tread on the same ground. I believe in philosophy and that is mastering oneself. If I was to choose religion, maybe I would choose Greek mythology," he said.
Takanyi's world ranking
Ranked at number 486 in the world, Garanganga has won three titles - the Turkey Futures 35 and 36 and recently the 23rd Century Systems ITF Futures Tournament in Harare.
However, the journey has not been rosy both on the court and financially as it has strained his parents' pockets.
"My goal is to attain points that would enable me to play in the ATP World Tours. That is every tennis player's dream. My ranking only allows me to participate in the Futures and Challengers tournaments, but my target is the ATP World Tour and to achieve that, I have to reach a ranking of above 250. Together with my coach Ronald Agenor, we are working on that.
"I want to reach out to Zimbabwean companies with an appeal for them to be involved. My dad has been financing me, but it is too much for him to go it alone. Imagine all the travelling and the hotel expenses. We are not millionaires. No other person has come to help me. Even Tennis Zimbabwe did not. Yes, they get grants from ITF, but that is only US$1 000," said the All Africa Games gold medalist.