Serena aims to smash down barriers in sport
By Sanjay Rajan
BANGALORE, India, March 4 (Reuters) - Opportunities for black players to succeed in tennis are increasing but still there is much to be done to make the sport accessible for all, according to multiple grand slam winner Serena Williams.
"Each year when I go on tour and at the U.S. Open I see another black face. It just makes my heart smile," the younger of the Williams sisters told Reuters on the sidelines of the WTA Bangalore Open.
Tennis, however, is yet to become affordable for the underprivileged black community, she said, adding that she plans to address the situation after her retirement from active tennis.
"It takes time, this isn't a typical black sport," she said. "It's the same thing in golf. There is pretty much one black player that is playing," she said referring to Tiger Woods.
"Maybe sometime if you want to talk economics, then maybe it (tennis) might not be affordable for some black people.
"Traditionally you look at tennis, you see in the past, fifty years, maybe one black player there. Tennis is an expensive sport.
"I mean just like, you know, I can name two great players that are playing tennis right now who have won 20 grand slams (singles, doubles and mixed) amongst them, they are black," she said referring to herself and elder sister Venus.
"I am definitely into philanthropy. Whether I am helping some of the poverty in India, which I would love to do, or some of the poverty in Africa, I am definitely into it," she added.
"I want to travel, get dirty and help people. That's really my goal," she said on her plans for life after tennis.
Serena and Venus, currently ranked 11th and seventh in the world, dominated women's tennis for a decade and more, winning 14 grand slam singles titles between them.
Serena, 27, is the last player --- male or female --- to have held all four grand singles titles simultaneously.
She said there was much reason for optimism.
"I think it has come a long way. Like I said every tournament I see a lot more black people playing tennis, which is really good to see and just takes time," she said.
"And I think there are more black people coming up. It's cool. Like the guy who got to the final of the Australian Open. That was really exciting seeing him," she added.
Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, born to a French mother and Congolese father, made a spectacular run at the season's opening grand slam.
Unseeded Tsonga breezed past four highly ranked players, including world number two Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals, before losing to Serb Novak Djokovic in four sets.
"Tennis, you know, is still pretty much a white sport. There are, however, lots more African American players who are playing... which (is) really very exciting for me," Serena said.
Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe were trailblazers in tennis for African-Americans. Gibson won the women's singles title at Wimbledon in 1957 but it took until 1975 for an African-American male to win there when Ashe beat hot favourite Jimmy Connors. (Editing by Ossian Shine and Martin Petty)