Niagara Gazette


June 23, 2013

SINGER: The making of a great champion


Niagara Gazette — So family played a big role in the making of this tennis honcho–having at least one good parent (as even the besmirched Lance Armstrong did) crucial. It isn’t degrees that make such figures–not by a long shot. Despite their rivalry, Serena lauds Venus as the best big sister in the world, and her parents as utterly “supportive,” and as one reads, one sees that without good parents, you may not have good siblings, either–the two often linked.

But of course like many greats (Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi, you name it), Serena had to go through a goodly amount of hell in her life. One part was braving the slings and arrows of know-alls who figured she and Venus threw matches in favor of one or the other. In their noble way the sisters wouldn’t counter these lies–how can one counter such things?

The parents (Serena’s dad from Louisiana and mom from Michigan before moving to LA) had endured much as well. Both wanted a better life for their daughters, but in the right way. Yes, they directed them, but with love and with rational demands.

As you push on in the book, you get to a part where Venus had to pull out of a tournament at Indian Wells, and Serena in the finals was then hooted and racially taunted. She never appeared there again, even at the risk of being fined or suspended. Injustice? Of course it exists aplenty, but injustice overcome is perhaps even more significant.

Besides sister Venus’ role in Serena’s development and phenomenal career, her oldest sister, Tunde, was like another mother to her, spurning tennis to become a nurse and mom of three, yet also intensely proud of Serena.

In sum, one shouldn’t take for granted either where Serena came from nor what she made of herself to reign today as number one in women’s tennis. (It ain’t just muscles and a big serve!)

B. B. Singer has taught at several colleges in the area, including Niagara University.

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