No one I knew truly got into tennis before the Williams sisters. Sure, I knew who Althea Gibson is, Arthur Ashe was, and my mother had a crush on Pete Sampras–but when the Williams sisters started playing tennis? Oh, you couldn’t tell nobody Black nothing about Venus and Serena from Compton, CA! Nothing at all! I mean, I am old enough to remember when they came up through all these US Opens with cornrows and beads! I remember how lily white tennis was, and how these Black girls with their supportive, vocal father and how their talent was so incredible that is scared people! Good! Tennis was boring, elitist, classist, but my mother loved it. So, I would watch with her.
When Venus or Serena won, she would grin. My father would cheer! And I would wonder to myself, “I wonder how many Black girls are going to play tennis now?” I am now almost 40, so is Serena and Venus is soon to be 41. In the time I have been a dedicated fan of all her Black girl magic, I have seen her disrespected, ignored, drug tested (repeatedly!), and likened to any manner of masculine thing. Racism being the ugly demon that it is, always looks back.
So, while the demon with the backwards head tried to stop anything Serena did, diminish any win by her sister, it didn’t see the Black girls that were coming after her.
CoCo Gauff wanted to play tennis when she saw Serena. When she would play, she would pretend to be her. Who doesn’t want to be a superhero? So far, CoCo at age 16 is ranked No. 47 in the world–THE WORLD!–in Singles and No. 42 in the world–THE WORLD!–in Doubles. Y’all remember what the Williams’ sisters were doing at 16? I do. All for watching someone that looks like her. Get em, Coco!
Naomi is Haitian and Japanese. This means Sis is still Black. No matter how the media tries to pull her Blackness from her–it is still there, and we all see it! At 23, she is currently ranked No. 1 in the world–THE WORLD! Two three days ago she beat Serena–and Serena congratulated her. Not snapped at her, not went off on her on social media. Nothing. She did what any Queen would do, and I expect nothing less. Even with Serena aging, the legacy that she has left and cut is generational! A Black woman as dominated a very White sport for the better part of two decades, man! Serena is a hero, trailblazer and is worthy of all respect. Part of that is realizing that soon, she might retire. Not soon, I hope. But in the time in the sun she has had, look what she has inspired–who she inspired! We know wise men plant trees they will never see the shade of. Serena has done the same, one win at a time.
[Images from businessinsider.com, wtatennis.com, and theguardian.com]