10 June 2018

Zimbabwe: Hall of Fame Induction Inspires Wayne Black's Latest Comeback

Fresh from being inducted into the University of Southern California (USC) Athletic Hall of Fame last month, tennis icon Wayne Black, at 44, made yet another unexpected comeback, to competitive tennis, featuring in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Old Mutual Futures Series at Harare Sports Club last week.

After a couple of wins in the qualifying stages of the tournament against opponents half his age, Black was finally stopped by 22-year-old American Ciro Lampasas 6-4, 4- 6, 5-7 in the final qualifier.

Although Black did not make it into the main draw, it was a bittersweet experience for the two-time doubles Grand Slam winner who seems to have quit, again.

"It's mid-life crisis I guess," he chuckled after The Sports Hub sought the reason for his latest comeback.

"I have been hitting the ball a lot since I went to the United States last month for my induction into the hall of fame at my former university in Southern California. Also there were some players at my lodge (Willow Lodge) who were playing in the ITF Futures and that pushed me to go out there and have some fun," Black revealed.

"It (the comeback) was good fun. "The only problem was I thought I could do things I used to do, but I was wrong. It was very frustrating because my mind told me I could do it, but with my body I had to know my limits," he said.

Black, who earned $3,3 million in prize money during his professional career, was among the 18 Trojan luminaries selected as the 12th class of the USC Athletic Hall of Fame and inaugurated at a black tie event held at USC's Galen Centre on May 19.

The second born of the famous Black siblings, Wayne enrolled for a business degree at USC in the early 1990s, but never got to finish the course after deciding to join the professional tennis ranks.

He was honoured for his exploits with the racket during his time at the institution.

Black has already ruled himself out of the third and final futures event, which gets underway at the same venue tomorrow, but has not decided whether he will compete again in future.

"Maybe I will come back to play in future, but right now my body is so sore I don't think I can play again in these futures tournaments," he said.

The Black family -- including Wayne's older brother Byron and younger sister Cara -- represented the country with distinction on the professional tennis circuit for over two decades between 1991 and 2015.

The trio bagged at least a doubles Grand Slam title each during their careers.

Wayne won two Grand Slam titles, the US Open, partnering countryman Kevin Ullyett in October 2001 and the Australian Open in 2005 as well as 16 doubles titles on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Tour.

Black has been quiet on the local tennis front since he retired in 2006, but made a comeback when he participated in a Euro/Africa Zone Group II Davis Cup home tie against Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2015, aged 41.

With his children Joseph (12) and Brooke (10) playing a lot of junior tennis lately, Wayne has become more visible on the domestic front while he has also made himself available to assist Tennis Zimbabwe whenever required.

"My kids are starting to play a lot of tennis on the junior circuit and "I attend a lot of junior events as a parent. I am not very pleased with how their tennis has developed, but it's because I haven't been as tough with them as our father (the late Don Black) was. But this is about to change," he said.

Wayne is married to Kazakhstan-born Irina Selyutina, a former World No. 1 in junior doubles and winner of the French Open and Wimbledon junior events in 1997 partnering with Cara.

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