USA: Sloane Stephen’s US Open victory & the ressurection of America’s women’s tennis – Tola Adenle

September 11, 2017

Sports, USA

First of all, a huge congratulations to the four semi-finalists at the just-concluded US Open: Coco Vandewghe, Madison Keys, Venus Williams and, of course, the newly-minted Leader of the Pack, Sloane Stephens.

America’s tennis establishment and tennis fans have longed for this. The stats were reeled out over and over again during the past fortnight, especially as the tournament entered the second week:

The last time an American woman – not named Williams – lifted the US Open trophy (1998); By the way, that was Lindsay Davenport, the coach of runner-up in this year’s tournament, Madison Keys.

The last time that all four players in a US Open semi-final women draw were Americans (1981).

The last American female NOT named Wiiliams lifted a major title, a Grand Slam, was Jennifer Capriati in 2002 at the Australian Open.

Et cetera et cetera.

In One word, the United States that used to dominate tennis so much that American ladies won 15 of the first 20 US Singles at the US Open, fell into a long dry spell with the exceptions of victories by Venus and Serena Williams.

Like sentries, the two have stood guard over America’s rich legacy, keeping hopes for younger talents who would come armed with the talent AND ESPECIALLY the hard work needed to make great champions. All over America are countless tennis courts, including public courts where Zina Garrison as well as Venus and Serena had their early training.

It’s all great now but pardon my saying so, America did not get to appreciate Venus and Serena OR Richard, their dad for quite a long while. Time was when Serena would face very hostile “home” crowd at [then] Flushing Meadows while the crowd would adopt whoever played Serena ALL the time and Venus some of the time.

Referress were particularly nasty to both; I remember vividly – like most Williams’ fans – a US Open when the umpire called an unforced error against Serena playing Capriatti. That umpire, not the first or last, gave that match to Capriatti, a former child star who self-destruct en route to greatness.

The girls handled everything, for the most part, with grace – especially Venus – and hung in there but the seeming deliberate actions to destabilize the girls  rattled the massively-talented Serena more than Venus.

Their family – father, mother and siblings, formed their bulwark of support and strength, while their being coached by their father right through the formative years and into most of their careers, remains, in my opinion, THE reason for their great success; their great work ethics, and the supreme confidence in who they are. Of course dedication to a sports they definitely love – not just labored at – is also very important.

As long as Venus and Serena stood guard, it gave young girls the determination that they too can enter the rarefied world of successful professional tennis players. Their sacrifice led to the many Russians and East Europeans on the tour these days: many are coached by family members like Venus and Serena. Both Miss Stephens and Madison Keys cite the Williamses as inspiration; countless other players on the tour do.

Here is a para from an old newspaper column about an incident at Wimbledon years ago. It shows a bit of what Venus and Serena faced as challengs till not long ago.

A link to the essay, posted here in 2011 is at the end:

And there is yet the latest Wimbledon snub that had the girls playing their first week matches on Court 2 when lesser mortals  who have never lifted trophies on Center Court were given star treatment. Hasn’t Venus lifted the Singles trophy FIVE times and Serena FOUR times for an incredible nine of the last eleven Wimbledon Finals? Give me a break, what scheduling? Where is r-e-s-p-e-c-t, even if love is absent?

NOTE: When Sharapova returned from her drug ban to the just-concluded US Open and Wozniacki complained about court assignation favoritism to Sharapova that ignored – as was apparently the practice – those who had won at US Open, fans were driven to take sides judging by online commen: it was implied Maria sells tickets!

it is a welcome change in the last couple of years or so that the Williamses’ contribution is finally being acknowledged. Richard Williams, too, should deserve a place at the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI. He showed the not-haves that it is possible to coach a tennis star outside the old tennis confines, and thereby made tennis careers achievable to many.

We all rejoice with Sloane, and feel great that at a mere 24, she is a good example  – along with Madison Keys, Coco Vandewghe and others – of a resurgent American Ladies team.

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2017. 1:35 a.m. [GMT].






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