opinion | The US Open shows that diversity is good for tennis

During the long, hot summers of my childhood, my father would watch endless hours of baseball on the black and white TV that sat in the corner of the living room.

Please notice that I said that See baseball. The game for him was a silent ritual. He was turning the volume down to silence play-by-play announcers talking about foul balls, RBIs and indoor courts.

My dad explained that sports broadcasters — at the time, all white men — would never know what some of those groundbreaking baseball moments meant to someone like him. And I understand why a black man from Alabama wouldn’t want to hear a bunch of wealthy broadcasters talk about what they think about players like Hank AaronAnd the Willie Miss or Rod Karoo.

I gained a new appreciation for his ritual of silencing sports broadcasters within hours of watching the US Open – the two-week tennis tournament that this year offered exciting matches, often played by people of color.

Tennis is the fourth most popular sport in the world, and with Francis Tiafoe, Carlos Alcaraz, Ons Jaber, Nick Kyrgios, Caroline Garcia, Coco Gauff, Rajiv Ram and Taylor Townsend all making it to the subsequent rounds in singles and doubles. The game is finally starting to look like the entire planet.

This is great news and helps explain how I came to mute the experts myself. Some of the ESPN announcers who covered Serena Williams’ second Open Championship match, Chris Evert and John McEnroe, praised her unspoken comeback with a win after a period of playing. But then they let their tongues drift when Evert started talking about everything Serena had learned “about being a black woman in a white sport”.

I understand what Everett might be attempt To say that, because Serena and her sister Venus really had to figure out how to survive (and eventually dominate) a sport that wasn’t meant for them. But it is ironic that some of the people who praise the intelligence of the Williams sisters are now less assimilated when they were just tennis players.

Some of us can’t forget McEnroe’s despicable comments Published in a British newspaper 2000 complains about the attitudes of the Williams sisters. McEnroe, who cursed the referees, smashed his racket and title “Super BratBecause of his red-faced childish tantrums, he complained that the Williams sisters weren’t friendly enough.

In the Sunday Telegraph in London, McEnroe wrote that the sisters lack respect and humility. Does saying hello to people in the locker room kill them? Asked.

Previous Black players like Arthur Ashe, Althea Gibson and Yannick Noah have also faced strong winds, but the Williams sisters have faced a special kind of animosity because they did things on their own terms. They’ve won Grand Slam crowns and millions in endorsements, and it’s easy to forget that many who are now considered loyal fans have loudly questioned their existence, their body, their braids, their fashion choices, and their playful walks. Dance on the field.

But let’s not pretend that’s always the case. To fully celebrate their careers, one must acknowledge and understand the racism and judgment they faced simply because they were different.

So, the thing I would like to hear from the commentators is unfamiliarity with what Serena learned as a black woman in “White Sport”, but rather what that they I learned as more players of color entered the structure of that game. It must be a lot. We’re seeing different styles of tennis, different paths to greatness, and a diverse crowd of fans. What does all this teach us?

The obvious answer is that variety is good for tennis. The audience for the first rounds of the tournament broken recordsdue in part to Serena’s farewell encounters but also due to sizzling play from the top seed and a wide range of arrivals.

I was traveling on Friday so I finished watching the men’s semi-final match between Alcaraz and Tiafoe in a crowded hotel bar. Alcaraz is a 19-year-old phenomenon from Spain. Tiafu, 24, is the son of Sierra Leonean immigrants who spent his life Childhood He sleeps at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md. where his father worked as a guard. Sometimes he would spend the night there, because his mother worked at night in the hospital. It came from hardship something unique.

I’m not sure my father would have approved of me watching tennis in a Boston bar, but I smiled to myself when I realized I was following his old ritual. The sound was low. All you could hear was the gossip of a group gathered in front of the TV. The comment was loud. shout. screaming. High Fives – And at the end (The Caraz prevailed in weary Five hours and five sets), a few tears.

no wonder. We were all looking forward to the future of tennis.

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