Over the weekend, Sloane Stephens captured her first major with her win at the U.S. Open. It was also the first time that an American not named Venus or Serena has won the Open since 1998. In addition, Stephens and Madison Keys were also the first duo of color not named Venus and Serena to challenge one another for tennis supremacy at center court in some time as well.
As Sloane and Keys stood near one another for a photo-op, an athletic looking, middle aged Black woman with a short-chop haircut stood between them with a bright smile.
When that photo first flashed across the television screen, my mind immediately registered her smiling face as a relative of one of the competitors. Then I remembered that relatives and parents seldom make an appearance when the champion and runner-up are brandishing their wares for the press.
Then, her name scrolled across the lower portion of the television screen. Her name is Katrina Adams, U.S.T.A. President. Indeed, after a brief hot flash of embarrassment, I realized that Ms. Adams was both a portion of the root and represented some of the fruit that was apparent with both Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams and Madison Keys making the semifinals damn near an all-black affair.
Sloane Stephens vs Madison Keys - US Open Final 2017 Highlights HD
Adams is the first African-American president and CEO of the United States Tennis Association today.
However, she was a young girl who fell in love with the game while watching her older brothers play the game at summer camp in Chicago. Fast forward to the '80s and the Northwestern University graduate would find herself ranked as high as No. 67 in the world on the WTA Tour and No. 8 in doubles.
“When you look at what Venus and Serena [Williams] have accomplished in the 20-year span that Venus has been out here — you look at all the African-American women that are out there — they probably had a Venus or Serena poster on their wall, and they grew up idolizing them,” she told NBC News. “I didn’t really have that person.”
“I look at them and I’m very proud of their success,” said Adams. “I understand that their road probably hasn’t been as easy as some of the others’."
Adams knows what it’s like to be seen as a minority in the sport.
“I was a player who was vying to do exactly what everyone else was doing, and I happened to be black,” she said. “And I’m pretty sure that they go into that thinking the same thing.”
Though Adams is proud of where women’s tennis is regarding diversity these days, she feels that young black males need a great deal of coaxing in order to help fulfill the legacy of Arthur Ashe, the last African-American man to win a Grand Slam.
“They just need to be them,” Adams insisted.
“I think we need to dispel the color issue of having to be the next person as opposed to applauding these athletes for achieving what they’ve done no matter what their circumstances are.”