Black Girl Tennis Magic
BY: ALEXIS ARNOLD
This fall is shaping up to be the season of Black girl tennis magic, and I. AM. HERE. FOR. IT. For the first time in U.S. Open history, four American women made it to the semi-finals. Both Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens are African-American, and Madison Keys is biracial. Both Stephens and Keys won their semi-final matches, knocking Williams and Colleen Vandeweghe out of the running. The two young women faced off in the final round with Stephens taking the trophy after dominating 6-0 in the final set.
Sloane Stephens’ win was no easy feat, nor was it expected. A previous injury left her unable to walk until mid-April, and she was ranked 957th while facing the top players in the world. However, Stephens has been playing tennis since the age of nine and was raised by parents who were both professional athletes. Her mother was an All-American swimmer at Boston University and her father was an NFL running back. With lots of support, hard work and determination, Stephens went from practicing her swing from a chair to U.S. Open champion in a matter of months.
Although she took second place this time, Madison Keys is still one of the best players in the world. She picked up tennis at a young age as well and was the first American woman to debut in the WTA top ten since Serena Williams in 1999. At the age of 14, Keys was one of the youngest players in history to play on the WTA tour and beat Serena Williams 5-1 in a 2009 tournament. Although Keys was beaten in the finals, she showed us once again that she is a true tennis powerhouse.
Stephens and Keys showed exceptional sportsmanship after the match. They embraced each other while sharing what appeared to be words of encouragement and sat together on the sidelines. Seeing female athletes openly support each other is a kind of camaraderie that is often lost in the heat of competition. It makes us remember that, no matter the stakes, tennis really is just a game. This occasion was made even more magical when Katrina Adams, the first Black president of the U.S. Tennis Association, presented the trophy to Stephens.
Serena Williams is currently recovering from her pregnancy, but she still took to twitter to voice her support and pride in the two young finalists. It was not the first time two Black women faced off in the final round, but it was the first time that neither competitor was a Williams sister. Although it is amazing that the Williams Sisters have lead the sport for so many years, it is equally as amazing to see the torch passed to two very capable tennis queens.