By Joseph Pate, huffingtonpost.com
A few weeks ago, I played tennis with a close friend of mine, also a young, black male. Thomas and I have been playing together for years, but this was the first time that I recorded our hitting session. I captured video to see what I look like on the court now that I am older and a more skilled player. When I first started playing tennis in local United States Tennis Association tournaments, my dad would film some of my matches to give me the opportunity to analyze my game first-hand.
After watching a couple minutes of the footage playback, Thomas said to me, “Now, tell me we don’t look like Venus and Serena [Williams] out there.” I couldn’t help but laugh. Our playing styles, movements and strokes, although they pale in comparison, were inspired and molded by Venus and Serena. On my forehand side, I alternate holding my racket like Venus or Serena depending on my mood. Much like both sisters, Thomas has the power and mental resolve to blast break points away with a big serve when caught in a jam.
In learning tennis, we studied them much more than we studied the game. Without Venus and Serena as references, there is no telling what our playing styles would be like. There is no telling if we would have ever picked up rackets and fallen in love with the sport. As successful Black athletes in a predominantly White sport, they gave us a vision and helped us believe in possibilities in the world of tennis for ourselves.