Sometimes, you come across someone who leaves an indelible mark in your life simply because of who they are. This was my experience upon interviewing the amazing tennis player and coach, K.B. Maleka.
This article was first published through Centre Court Tennis, an all-inclusive tennis shop in Mt. Pleasant (centrecourttennisclub.com) that’s run by Derrick and Terry, a couple who is passionate about tennis and the community they serve.
Take a minute to read about this amazing individual who has a heart for tennis, the skill behind the game, and the soul of a wise instructor for those who are just learning.
Mr. Kabelo Maleka, or “KB” as he is called, is a gifted individual and an athlete with extraordinary ability in the sport of tennis as both a player and a coach. He speaks four languages: English, Africaans, Tswana and Zulu. He has won numerous tennis competitions on multiple continents, and he has repeatedly demonstrated his skill and experience on the court.
His story begins in South Africa in the early 90’s, when he began playing tennis through the opportunities presented to him at the age of six. The then-President of his homeland, Bophuthatswana, at that time not yet part of South Africa, commissioned a community tennis center to be built nearby. The facility was accessible and affordable with a low price of the equivalent of less than two dollars per year membership at the time. That singular act changed KB’s life. As the youngest of five children with a span of fourteen years between them, he followed in his family’s footsteps and began playing the sport of tennis.
“As a man in tune with himself and my students, at the end of the day, I often find myself thinking about how the day went and how I can improve the next day… perhaps about a specific student and what I can do or create to aid them in their game.”
As his work shows, KB’s involvement with tennis has been a lifelong passion with thirteen plus years of a coaching career. He has received numerous awards and recognitions including the 2000 International Club Junior Tennis Champion; 2001-2003 South African Davis Cup Team member; 2002 Easter Classic Champion, Mmabatho, South Africa; 2002 Swaziland Open Champion; 2005 Botswana Open Champion; 2007 Yale Open Champion, USA; 2011 Aronimink Open Runner-up, Philadelphia, PA, USA; and 2015 & 2016 Charleston Pro League Champion & MVP, Charleston, SC.
For the last five years now, he has served as an elite high performance junior tennis coach for LTP (Live Tennis Play), a private tennis facility in Mt. Pleasant, SC. He was recently selected as one of four coaches at LTP to work with the Randy Pate Tennis Academy at LTP, where his official title will be Head Tennis Professional – Player Development Specialist. The legacy that KB began in South Africa has continued stateside through his students over the years. When asked to give advice for aspiring tennis players, he offered this sage advice:
KB is always thinking about ways to improve the game for his students. “My love for the game, ways to improve it, and what I give to my students, all define who I am. People feel as if they can learn from me. I can convey a message and paint a picture, adapting and relating to how people needs to be coached. I understand that everyone is different and learns differently, due to their backgrounds and what they’ve done before they walk onto my court.”
When asked about the top tennis players whom he most admires, he immediately said Patrick “Pat” Rafter, a former Australian Tennis player and World No. 1, and Roger Federer, a Swiss professional tennis player who is currently ranked world No. 7 by the ATP. Pat Rafter twice won the men’s singles title at the US Open and was twice the runner-up at Wimbledon. He was known for his natural serve-and-volley style of play. In KB’s words, Pat was “a player who really used what he had the best he could, to be better than anyone else during his time in the game. He used his athleticism and his style of play, not necessarily innate talent, to be the top of his game.” Federer, on the circuit today, is the opposite as a player for whom the game seems to come easy.
“I admire how little effort he seemingly puts into his game and how he looks when he is playing, while being one of the best. He makes the game of tennis look beautiful.”
Yet Mr. Kabelo Maleka’s own meritorious accomplishments in the highly competitive field of professional tennis as a player and as a coach can only be described as extraordinary. Undoubtedly, he is at the top of his game and field. Articles have been written nationally and internationally which illustrate Maleka’s recognition as an exceptional player, and numerous articles have been written to highlight the achievements of the junior tennis players coached by him.
His tennis playing, coaching and player development are exceptionally referred to by experts in the field from around the world as: “outstanding”, “most valued”, “an asset”, “tremendous”, “at the very top of his field”, “highest caliber”, “coaching ability is commensurate with the best I have seen in the game”, “remarkable”, “world-class.”
As so many of his students, fellow players, and colleagues will attest, Kabelo “KB” Maleka is a man of wisdom, passion, and heart; he has learned, played, and given back to the tennis community time and time, again, for a game to which he has dedicated his life’s work.