The real face of American tennis

By Dexter Rogers, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: July 3, 2010

INDIANA (BASN) — There must be happy times in the Williams household.

Serena Williams defeated Vera Zvonareva of Russia 6-3, 6-2 to claim her 13th Grand Slam title and cement her status as the No. 1 ranked player in the world.

As Serena embraced her trophy her parting words for the crowd were, “Dreams do come true. Stick to them and work hard.”

How true it is. America is always asking for the next up-and coming American. The media asks, “Who is the face of American tennis.”

No, it’s not Andy Roddick. Since his split with Brad Gilbert he hasn’t been the same player. He won the 2003 US Open but that’s it in terms of majors.

The media wanted to anoint Melanie Oudin after her great run at last years US Open. One great run and playing Fed Cup doesn’t get you recognized. Winning does.

The tennis world has anointed Maria Sharapova as the face of tennis. In my opinion it’s not even a discussion of extensive debate. Without question Serena Williams is the face of tennis and the Williams’ sisters continue to carry the sport forward.

While some don’t want to admit it the Willliams’ sisters are the face of American tennis whether you want to accept it or not.

The Williams’ story is the epitome of the American dream: They spawned from the mean streets of Compton, California to hoisting Grand Slam trophies. Venus and Serena have essentially dominated the tour over the past decade.

Over the last decade they’ve won nearly half all singles grand slams played.

They’ve also combined to 12 Grand Slam doubles titles. At the past 10 Wimbledon’s one of the sisters was in the finals every year accept one.

Venus or Serena has nine of the last 11 crowns. Venus has five titles and Serena has four. As the rankings stand Serena is ranked No. 1 and Venus is ranked No. 2 in the world.

This is exceptional because Richard and Oracene Williams have raised not one, but two top tier champions. What other sport can you name that has had two champions in one home?

What if Tiger had another brother battling him on Sundays for major championships? What if LeBron James had a brother who played in the Western Conference and they’d battle consistently to win the NBA title? What if Roger Federer had a little brother going toe-to-toe at major championships?

The Williams’ sisters have taken over a sport that’s largely dominated by whites. Historically it’s been a lily-white sport that hasn’t catered to African-Americans. Despite the latter the sisters have taken the sport to new heights and they did it their way.

The foundation was set at home by Richard and Oracene Williams. Have been coached by Rick Macci, Morris King Jr.

and Nick Bollittieri at various times but the family has been the core.

While it’s great to see the sisters dominate on the court it’s a shame that the pipeline isn’t being filled with those who have the ability but lack the notoriety and means to excel.

What has the USTA done to induce African-American presence? What has the higher-ups done to encourage an African-American presence in decision-making capacities?

Rodney Harmon was in charge of player development but suddenly he was replaced by Jose Higueras in 2008. Why? Zina Garrison was seemingly forced out as Fed Cup Captain. She sued the USTA and there was an out of court settlement.


How many African-American umpires do you see?

The Williams’ family got to the top their way looked what it got them. Doesn’t it make sense to embrace their efforts? Doesn’t it make sense to incorporate some of the wisdom from the family to make the game better?

Doesn’t it make sense to have more of an African-American presence in the sport of tennis?

For as American as the Williams’ family are they are depicted as anti-American by a small contingent in this country because they are not Christians, don’t play Fed Cup and do things their way.

I say big deal. Let’s look at the facts.

They win on the court. Yes, Serena blew up at the US Open last year but that was blown way out of proportion. They aren’t in any trouble and they excel off the court.

The Williams’ sisters are part owners the Miami Dolphins, clothing lines, and they embrace education. To me those things are as American as you can be. Why not incorporate the Williams’ into the fray?

They’ve raised not one but two champions. It diversifies the game and creates opportunities for upward mobility for African-Americans in the sport. Not everyone can be Serena Williams but they can athletic trainers, instructors, journalists or hold prominent USTA positions.

If one just work hard, networks and consistently put themselves in position one day you shall succeed. As Serena stated as she finished her on court interview, “Dreams do come true.”

Yes, they do.