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American tennis is dominated by Black women, but why?

Originally published in the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper.

This Olympic cycle, the U.S. women’s tennis team will be represented by four African-Americans: Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens, a first for the sport.

The Williams sisters, especially Serena, can be credited with encouraging the next wave of Black tennis stars to enter the fray, and this may be a reason why the four will be making history this summer.

Likewise, for Stephens and Keys, their style of play is often linked to the Williams sisters, and now both women are Top 25 players with the necessary speed and aggressiveness to be stars for a long while to come, even after Serena and Venus leave the sport.

But beyond the history of this moment, it is telling that American tennis is dominated by Black women, not men, and some believe this is because tennis fails to attract the best male athletes in the country.

For example, John McEnroe, former tennis star and current commentator, said the other major American sports (i.e. football and basketball) are where the bulk of the best athletes, especially Blacks, rise from poor neighborhoods. Professional baseball, in another case, has seen a decline in Black stars since the 70s, too.

Perhaps some Black kids simply can’t afford the equipment and training necessary to enter one of the world’s premier individual sports. But there are some tennis camps supplementing families with scholarships and benefits, however these venues tend to stick in states like New York and Florida.

Anyway, for whatever it’s worth, according to Forbes, Serena was busy earning $29 million last year for her play and endorsements. On the opposite end, the best W.N.B.A. players, as one former Time Magazine editor notes, makes a little over $100,000 each year.

Maybe this is a sign that if you’re a parent of a young Black girl who possesses raw athletic talent, the tennis court may be the best choice for you, or maybe we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.

All of this is wonderful to ponder. Nonetheless, for now, let’s just agree to root for the talented women we currently have.