Search

Trouble at Home Byron Black fought through the first week of Wimbledon while trying to keep his mind off political battles in his native Zimbabwe

July 10, 2000
July 10, 2000

Table of Contents
July 10, 2000

Trouble at Home Byron Black fought through the first week of Wimbledon while trying to keep his mind off political battles in his native Zimbabwe

It was no small feat for Byron Black to reach the fourth round of
Wimbledon for the first time in his nine-year professional
career. His play last week was all the more remarkable given that
issues far weightier than tennis have been on his mind. As Black
and his brother, Wayne, and sister, Cara, were playing their
early-round matches at the All England Club, their native
country, Zimbabwe, was awash in political turmoil.

This is an article from the July 10, 2000 issue Original Layout

In a highly contested election marked by intimidation, the
assassination of an opposition candidate and more than 20 other
deaths, the party of President Robert Mugabe narrowly retained
control of Zimbabwe on June 27. Mugabe advocates, among other
controversial policies, the redistribution of land--often through
violent occupation--from white farm owners to members of the
nation's black majority. Byron Black and his siblings, who are
white, were raised on a 22-acre avocado farm outside the capital
city, Harare, and have white friends whose property has been
seized by armed squatters. "We're trying to follow the situation
as best we can, but I'm also trying not to let it interfere with
my tennis," Black said last Saturday. "It sounds like things have
calmed down in the past few days."

Away from their country playing tennis during the election, none
of the Blacks could cast a vote. Since they are prominent members
of the racial minority in Zimbabwe--and were treated as national
heroes during Zimbabwe's near upset of the U.S. in a Davis Cup
play last February--they are reluctant to take much of a political
stand. That Mugabe's wife, Grace, is a leading patron of
Zimbabwean tennis further complicates their position. "I will say
this: It's good that there's some competition, that there's now a
party to keep the ruling party in check," says Byron. "Before
this there was never any real opposition."

All three Blacks intend to settle in Zimbabwe when their playing
careers end. Byron, who's ranked 52nd in the world but has been
as high as 22, owns a flat in London, but he and his wife, Fiona,
recently built a house near his parents' farm. Both brothers will
have a better sense of the political climate when they return
home next week to face Romania in a Davis Cup tie.

"You obviously play tennis for yourself," says Byron, "but I'd
like to think that in some small way playing well at Wimbledon
and playing Davis Cup is helping with unity at home, giving the
people of Zimbabwe something positive to take their minds off the
day-to-day."

--L.J.W.

COLOR PHOTO: SIMON BRUTY