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US Open Musings Day 10

Sometimes you meet people quite by accident who wind up having a profound influence on you. Coach Zibu Ncube is one of those people.

When my son first got serious about tennis, he worked with a coach in Atlanta named Noel Wadawu. Noel is originally from Zimbabwe, not necessarily a country you associate with great tennis players. That said, Noel was one of the top players in his country and, as a result, had the opportunity to come to the US to play college tennis at Florida A&M University.

Zibu’s story is a similar one to his friend, Noel’s. Zibu was also a top junior and came to the US to lead the men’s tennis team at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. After college, Zibu began coaching alongside his brother, Benjamin, eventually both settling in California where they started B&Z Sports. Over the years, Zibu and Ben have coached an incredible number of top juniors who have gone on to become top college players and are now making their mark out in the world.

I first met Zibu at the National Clay Courts the summer before my son’s senior year of high school. I was watching a match, waiting for my son to play, and heard an accent very similar to Noel’s, so I asked where he was from. When he said Zimbabwe, I asked if he knew Noel, and, as it turns out, he not only knew him but they were very close friends. That, and the fact that Zibu and Benjamin were very close with – and coached – a family that I had gotten to know through tennis, cemented the friendship for us.

Since that summer, I have stayed in touch with Zibu, running into him at tournaments but mainly following his journey with his players through social media. When I saw that his player was one of the competitors in the US Open Juniors this year, I was hoping I’d have the chance to catch up with him. Thankfully, I did! And Zibu introduced me to his player’s parents as well, so you can now hear from Zibu Ncube, Shari Boyer, and Chris Boyer below.

One interesting note that may not be clear from the interviews is that Zibu’s player, Tristan – after losing his first round singles match – was invited to be Novak Djokovic’s hitting partner later that same day. Tristan hit with Nole on the practice courts and was invited the following day to hit with him at Gordon Uehling‘s house in New Jersey where Nole stays each year during the Open.

For the most recent Junior results, read the latest from ZooTennis here. Tomorrow’s matches begin at Noon. It’s my last day at the Open, but I will continue to bring you some amazing interviews I prepared during my stay. I will also have one last copy of THE COMPLETE PLAYER to give away on the grounds so tweet at me if you’d like to have it.


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