Williams sisters top Woods in impact
Williams sisters top Woods in impact
Kevin B. Blackistone
Dallas Morning News
Jul. 4, 2005 12:00 AM
WIMBLEDON, England - It was a popular refrain a number of years ago: Venus and Serena Williams would do for tennis what Tiger Woods was doing for golf.
Now, with Woods eight seasons removed from winning his first major, the Masters, and the Williams sisters six years removed from taking their first Grand Slam, the 1999 U.S. Open that Serena captured, the verdict is in.
The Williams sisters haven't done for their once insular sport what Tiger did for his still heavily blinkered game. They've done more. advertisement
The Williams sisters and Tiger both boosted TV ratings for their sports to heights never before seen. The all-Williams final at the 2001 U.S. Open drew a larger audience than the Notre Dame-Nebraska football game on at the same time. Woods' final round at that '97 Masters produced a record golf audience in the cable era.
Both, no doubt, have created interest for their sport in pockets where traditionally there had been none.
Both caused sales of the prerequisite equipment for their respective sports to spike.
But there is one area where the Williams sisters, in shorter time, have trumped Tiger. And nothing is more indelible than this. It is legacy. They have already produced one. Tiger has not.
It is difficult to ignore that fact with Venus playing Saturday in her first Grand Slam final in two years and Tiger headed to the United Kingdom two weekends from now for the British Open.
For over on Court 18 at the All England Club early Friday afternoon was a 15-year-old kid with a diamond stud in his left ear and a white ball cap on his noggin cocked slightly over his forehead like Cleveland Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia.
Donald Young is the No. 1 junior in the world, a title he claimed in January by winning the Australian Open juniors. He's the youngest ever to hold the No. 1 ranking. He hails from Chicago and now lives with his coaching parents in Atlanta. And he's Black.
Earlier in the week, Young was on a collision course to meet Timothy Neilly in Friday's boys semifinals. Born in the Bahamas and a resident of Miami, Neilly is the 15th-ranked junior in the world. He's 17 and Black, too.
Then there is 17-year-old Marcus Fugate out of Fairport, N.Y. He's the 67th-ranked junior on the planet. And he's Black.
Neilly lost in the quarterfinals Thursday. Young was felled Friday by France's top-ranked junior, a hard-hitting 18-year-old named Jeremy Chardy.
John McEnroe, among others, has said that Young is the future star of American tennis. Nike concurs. It already has picked him up.
The National Minority Golf Foundation's Web site does show two players in the top 100 in the boys rankings and four players in the top 100 in the girls rankings.
But Woods found no solace in the numbers.
"At the junior level, there are some players with some talent, but as you continue to move up more levels, the process of screening weeds them out," he told the media on the eve of the U.S. Open.
After all this time, Woods remains the lone Black player on the PGA Tour.
During the first week of Wimbledon, Serena was matched against 20-year-old Angela Haynes, one of the little kids who watched Serena growing up on the playground courts of Compton, Calif. Haynes is Black, too.
Then there is 20-year-old Shenay Perry from Washington D.C. She turned pro in 2000 and joined several other Black women on the tour.
The reasons are clear why the Williams sisters have had a greater impact bringing other Black athletes into tennis than Woods has had getting more Black players, or other minorities, into golf.
For one, Black kids identify more with the Williams sisters, reared in a well-known Black neighborhood by Black parents, than with Tiger. Tiger wasn't reared in a predominantly Black neighborhood. He is the product of a mixed marriage and appears to have championed his other roots far more than his Black roots.
The Williams sisters always seemed Afrocentric, whether with their braids and beads as teenagers or their ghetto fabulous hair weaves and big earrings as young adult women.
And when Tiger was asked to take a stand on an issue of import to the Black community, like Augusta, he balked. Serena respected the NAACP's travel ban against South Carolina and refused to play there.
Not only that, but golf, as Tiger alluded to recently, continues to struggle with making itself available.
"A lot of these kids don't have the opportunity to practice and play and compete around the country in junior golf events or individual amateur events," he lamented last month.
That's not the case with tennis. A racket doesn't cost nearly as much as a set of clubs. There isn't even a city fee to play on a municipal court. Anyone can play.
There are plenty of stories in tennis about working-class kids participating, especially now that the Williams sisters have shown the way.