ZIMBABWE junior tennis ace Mehluli Sibanda’s star continues to rise, with the 17-year-old surging to a career-high ranking on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Junior World Rankings this week.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Sibanda, who has been enjoying a phenomenal final season as a junior, was in top form during the recently concluded three ITF 18-and-Under South Central Circuit events at Harare Sports Club.
The three events, which took place from July 31 to last Friday, attracted players from around the world, including neighbouring South Africa, Namibia, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Canada, Kenya, Great Britain and Brazil, to mention just a few.
Young Sibanda won two singles titles and as many doubles titles with his Kenyan partner Sheil Kotecha during the three tourneys to climb a massive 58 places from number 194 to a career-best world ranking of 136.
Speaking after the conclusion of the three tournaments on home soil, Sibanda said he was hoping to continue with the good form as he prepares to graduate to the ITF Futures Circuit tournaments.
“I played really well in the three weeks,” he said.
“It means more confidence now and, hopefully, I can win more matches even in the (ITF) Futures. I am going to play more Futures in Egypt and in Cape Town.”
Sibanda’s remarkable progress also saw him overtaking the trio of Philip Henning (141), Bertus Kruger (165), both from South Africa, and Egypt’s Yusuf Khamis (166) to become the second highest junior African tennis player on the ITF Junior World Rankings.
Eighteen-year-old Tunisian Mohamed Bellalouna, who reached the third round at the Junior Wimbledon Championships last month, is currently Africa’s highest junior tennis player, with a world ranking of 59.
Sibanda is one of the two upcoming players who have recently been incorporated into Zimbabwe’s Davis Cup squad together with United States-based Tadiwa Chinamo.
The duo have been widely tipped to become integral members of the team in the future and were part of the Davis Cup squad which earned promotion to Euro/Africa Group II for next year after a successful campaign in Cairo, Egypt last month.
Sibanda is coached by the renowned South Africa-based Zimbabwean tennis coach Prince Madema, the former ITF development officer for East Africa and current coach at the University of Pretoria’s High Performance Centre.