NOAH ZAMORA: A GLIMPSE INTO THE LIFE OF A WORLD-CLASSUSTA SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
SPORTSMAN AND COMPETITOR
SPORTSMAN AND COMPETITOR
AUGUST 6, 2023 | BRENDEN FISHER
NOAH ZAMORA: A GLIMPSE INTO THE LIFE OF A WORLD-CLASS SPORTSMAN AND COMPETITORUSTA SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
AUGUST 6, 2023
Noah Zamora during the SoCal Pro Series event at Barnes Tennis Center.
(Photos – Lexie Wanninger/USTA SoCal)
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Legendary UCLA Men’s Basketball Coach John Wooden once said, “Sports do not build character, they reveal it.” Wooden’s message juxtaposed sports and life and what it really means to be a true person of respect and honor while competing. In today’s age where there is no shortage of talent in sports, it has become a rarity to find athletes that pair excellent play alongside exceptional behavior. One of the few people that encapsulates both of these qualities, and at that a very high level, is current UC Irvine Men’s Tennis star Noah Zamora.
Coming from St. Augustine High School in San Diego as a blue-chip, five star prospect, Zamora’s talent has been on display for years. His captivating skills and contagious energy on the court make him a pleasure to watch. Tennis has been an integral part of the now-20-year-old’s life from a very young age.
“I started playing tennis at the age of four because my aunts had my cousin play when he was a child,” Zamora said. “My cousin had a great time playing tennis and my family thought that it would be good for me as well. I was definitely inspired by my family playing first. My mom and her sister both played high school tennis, which I guess was sort of the catalyst to tennis running in the family.”
Noah’s passion for tennis led him to begin competing as a junior in Southern California, initially perceived as a chore but later transformed into a rewarding opportunity of personal growth, lifelong relationships, and skills development.
“Playing junior tennis was great. I used to resent it at first since I would miss a lot of school events and chances to hang out with friends as tournaments were on the weekends and training happened after school. At first, I viewed it in a way where I wished I was doing what everyone else was doing,” Zamora added. “Actually in retrospect, I see it as a blessing now because it set me up for a lot of great things that I’m doing currently. Junior Tennis really paved the way for me to gain a little bit of maturity and discipline in my life.”
Just like it played a large part in kick-starting Noah’s journey, a very close family member, Noah’s mother, played a significant role in shaping his on-and-off court demeanor, mannerisms, behavior, and positive body language, showcasing what exemplary character truly means.
“Just in life, there have been times where I could tell that she’s mad at me and she doesn’t really show it,” explained Zamora. “To me, even though you’re feeling angry and you’re finding ways to not show it, it demonstrates a lot of maturity. Since my mom was doing that throughout my whole life, I thought that I should be doing that on court.”
These family values helped teach Noah the importance of sportsmanship and how crucial it is for him to treat others with kindness.
“Sportsmanship shows what type of person you really are,” said Zamora. “I could be a great tennis player, but I’d still feel incomplete at the end of the day if I don’t treat people with the respect I’d want to be treated with. To me, that’s the essence of sportsmanship. It was kind of what my parents valued the most in tennis so I would learn how to behave on court from a very young age. Even now I’m still trying to work on that. I guess it has shown itself and people have seen that which has been really cool.”
During his time in Junior Tennis, Noah formed great relationships with fellow San Diego native Ivan Thamma, a standout player at both UC Davis and Southern Methodist University, and his coach Steve Adamson, a director and instructor of tennis for over 20 years. They spoke highly of Noah’s sportsmanship and positive on-court behavior.
“Noah displays sportsmanship by being a great competitor but still being respectful on the court. He is very fair with line calls, manages his emotions well and will always have a smile on his face,” Thamma noted. “When I see Noah on the court he looks so happy to be out there. He is genuine and kind to his peers and a great person overall.”
“Noah is known throughout the tennis community as being extremely talented and one of the fairest players on court,” Adamson added. “He is a great person and very well liked by everyone due to his laid back personality and excellent sportsmanship. He routinely gives his opponent the benefit of a close call even if it is an important point in the match. He always congratulates his opponent after the match regardless of the outcome. In my Academy, he always makes it a point to play with the younger kids to help mentor them and they love it.”
Noah’s radiant energy and positive attitude led to him receiving the Evelyn Houseman Lifetime Junior Sportsmanship Award in 2020, recognizing his exemplary representation of good sportsmanship and elite performance in his junior tennis career. He was honored at an awards banquet and received a lifetime USTA membership.
“When I won, I thought it was a surprise at first,” Zamora mentioned. “I soon realized after winning the award that even though I got mad at myself a lot, I always treated my opponents and the people around me with respect. Being respectful is just something my parents have instilled in me for such a long time and I was really happy that it showed itself through. This award just showed that being a good and an honest person goes a long way even compared to being just a good tennis player. I’m really happy that they chose me for that award and it really made me feel good.”
Executive Director of the USTA Southern California Trevor Kronemann shared his thoughts on why Zamora’s selection for this achievement was a no-brainer: “Noah exemplified sportsmanship and was an easy choice for this prestigious award. He represented our section with class and character throughout many team and individual events. Always supporting the section with a smile and hard work.”
As we look to the present day, Noah is currently entering his Junior year as an Anteater. While many schools came calling for Noah, it would ultimately be two people that persuaded the young phenom to come play at UC Irvine. Head coach Michael Saunders and now teammate and childhood friend Matthew Sah were pivotal in Zamora’s decision to attend.
“I really didn’t give UCI much thought at first because I had never been to the campus in person,” Zamora explained. “One of my good friends that I trained with as a junior, Matthew Sah, played at Irvine and basically he convinced me to come. He really put UCI on the map for me and after talking to the coaches and after seeing how bad he really wanted me to be on the squad, I decided that was the right place for me. It’s probably one of the best decisions I have made in my life to be in an environment like this. I’m very grateful for Matthew and coach Saunders for everything they did that helped point me in that direction.”
While success on the court remains a high priority for the Anteaters, head coach Michael Saunders has found the ability to allow his players the opportunity to grow both as tennis players and as people.
“College tennis is unique in that the competitors share with the officials the responsibility of making calls. As a coach, I try to emphasize the privilege this offers young players,” shared Saunders. “It provides a rare opportunity to develop and express one’s integrity, character, and sportsmanship. I believe it’s the greatest value of playing our sport and I wish more parents and coaches would emphasize this.”
These responsibilities are extremely important to Zamora and one of the primary reasons why he chose UC Irvine.
“I’ve noticed that UCI is a really special place where we cultivate honesty and great sportsmanship,” Zamora discussed. “This team is credited to our head coach Michael Saunders for doing such a great job recruiting such honest people. He’s helped my game so much and throughout all that he’s always made sure that I behave and cares about me and the person that I choose to be off the court.”
Even before playing a match for the Anteaters, Noah’s impact was felt immediately at UC Irvine. Zamora’s fairness to his teammates and competitors was “refreshing to see,” shared Saunders. “When Noah arrived at UCI, he quickly developed a reputation amongst his teammates for being “too fair” with his line calls. I believe it spoke to Noah’s values as a competitor. At his very core, Noah wants to make certain he has earned everything he achieves. In that sense, in my book, he is a true competitor who competes with the utmost integrity. His fairness is often contagious. I’ve seen his competitors make better calls as a match progresses because they recognize that Noah has played balls close to the line that some other players would call out.”
Zamora’s time in Irvine has been nothing short of successful. His respect of others and true love of the game has allowed him to elevate his abilities to heights not many are able to reach. During his two collegiate seasons thus far, he has accumulated almost every accolade and achievement possible.
As a freshman, Zamora excelled in tennis, winning the Big West co-Freshman of the Year and securing a spot on the all-Big West first-team for doubles and second-team for singles. He led the team with a 17-4 overall record and an impressive eight-match win streak. His outstanding performance continued in the conference tournament, leading the Anteaters to a Big West championship in 2022. In 2023, Zamora’s success continued, earning first-team All-Big West honors in both singles and doubles play. He displayed an even more impressive performance, leading the Anteaters with 18 overall singles wins and going undefeated in his last 15 matches. Zamora and his partner, Brandon Park, achieved a 12-4 record in doubles, contributing to UC Irvine’s share of the 2023 Big West regular season championships. Besides excelling on the court, Zamora was also recognized for his academic achievements, earning a spot on the Big-West All-Academic Team. He finds immense joy playing with the Anteaters and cherishes the valuable lessons he’s learned during his collegiate career.
“My experience at UCI has been a journey. It’s been a great experience and it seems that there’s always new things to learn every day,” Zamora discussed. “Playing here has taught me that I have to come out to practice each day with a growth mindset and remember that every day isn’t going to be perfect. I know that I’m going to have to work a lot harder than the day before to really improve. My teammates and coaches have really pushed the limits that I never thought I had and because of that, I’ve had a great time.”
Looking to the future, Noah has high aspirations for the latter half of his collegiate career along with his life post graduation.
“Right now, my short term goal is to try and win a couple matches on the challenger level. For the long term, I really want to try to get into the best law school I can, so I’m just trying to cram and study for that,” added Zamora. “I’m just trying to prepare for when tennis is all set and done. If I catch fire while playing and start having these unreal results in matches, maybe law school could wait a little bit and I could see how far tennis goes. I love doing what I do and I just want to see how far tennis gets me. So that’s the real dream, but for my long term I really want to prove that I could build a career academically.”