The problem with female African American tennis players.

Fabresque

Hall of Fame
When you think of black female tennis players, nobody else stands out more than Serena Williams. No other female athlete stands out more than her, in fact. Her achievements, her drive, her passion, everything that makes Serena, Serena. It makes her stand out, and it makes her shine in a sport which has typically been white-dominated.

Serena Williams is the greatest female player of all time, there’s no two ways around it. But, with all the stuff Serena has achieved and how incredible she is, she unfortunately has been one of the root causes for the downfall of female African American tennis players.

Take, for instance, Sloane Stephens. At such a young age, shes been Top 5 on the WTA rankings, has won a slam, reached another final, and amassed over $15,000,000 in prize money. Not to mention she’s still just 27, and in an age where sports science and medicine is constantly advancing, she’s relatively young. Her resume looks pretty good, and most tennis players, male or female, would die for that kind of career.

However, Sloane is seen as an abject disappointment. A dud, a flop, an overrated fluff of a player. But... why? I mean, she’s got a lot going for her and still makes money on tour, so what’s the problem? Unfortunately, Sloane is one of many victims of “Serena Syndrome”, a term I use for female tennis players, usually African American, who have been compared to Serena Williams. There’s a simple 4 step process in which these players fall into the syndrome.

1. By no fault of their own, be African-American
2. Win lots of junior titles and burst onto the scene
3. Media draws comparisons to Serena
4. Whatever they achieve is overshadowed

Sloane has unfortunately fallen into this syndrome, no doubt a successful tennis player, she isn’t seen as one. She isn’t even seen as a good tennis player. All because she was compared to Serena at such a young age, and her achievements PALE in comparison.

Sasha Vickery and Taylor Townsend are recent victims. Both African-American, decent juniors, started doing their rounds on tour, and BAM. Serena comparisons.

The most alarming thing about this trend is how people are starting it with the up and coming players, Robin Montgomery and especially Coco Gauff. Coco is the most talented player we’ve seen out of the US for a few years now. After her Wimbledon performances last year, we once again saw the Serena comparisons. I just hope she doesn’t let this get into her head. Coco needs to focus on being Coco. A career with 6 slams and 35 weeks at No. 1 is damn impressive, but it will inevitably be overshadowed by Serena.

Instead of comparing these talented girls to one outlier who’s never going to be surpassed, we need to embrace them. Sloane is not Serena, she is Sloane and always has been. Coco is not Serena, she is Coco and always will be.
 

clayqueen

Talk Tennis Guru
I see it totally differently from your perspective. I think the problem lies with the expectations of the experts and their stereotypical way of seeing black people. They don’t just see Serena as simply one of the great players of all time, they see her as a black female player and any young black female player is expected to slip straight into her shoes simply because of profiling.

Sloane is clearly talented but simply not as prolific a winner as Serena. It’s not as if Sloane has a truckload of achievements and is not celebrated for them because she falls short of Serena’s haul of trophies; she is simply not up there with the best.

Don’t get me started on Coco. The poor girl is being force fed to us because they are desperate to replace the Williams sisters and any promising up and coming black female player is seen as their second coming. I think they are doing a great disservice to Coco by putting far too many pressure on her, expecting her to win every match she plays and not giving her the chance to take her time to develop her game. She is getting frustrated even before she starts.

Taylor Townsend is a good player but not great by any stretch of the imagination.

No other ethnic group is seen in the same way as black players are seen. They don’t think that any promising young Spanish player is the 2nd coming of Rafa because profiling doesn’t apply to them.
 

Aussie Darcy

Bionic Poster
Sloane’s seen as a dud because she lost 8 straight matches after winning the US Open. Not cause of her skin colour. Venus, Coco Gauff and more aren’t viewed as failures.
 

RaulRamirez

Legend
Perhaps, there's an additional burden placed on young black female players, and I hope that Coco Gauff - in particular - finds her own successful path.

I like Sloane, but her style is so smooth, almost languid, that she appears to not be giving full effort at times. I'm not accusing her, but I think that's an easy perception to form.

The thing is, I've been following lots of sports for a long time, and have seen many young athletes tabbed as "the next" - Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, and so on. I get your post, but it's not unique to "the next Serena".
People with the careers of Serena Williams - or the others I mentioned - simply don't come along that often.
 

Arak

Hall of Fame
I kind of agree with the OP because if you look at men’s tennis, there are no prominent black players, and there is no pressure on someone like Tiafoe to succeed, while in women’s tennis, every black girl is supposed to be the successor of serena.
 

Arvid

Semi-Pro
Serena is perhaps the most successful female player of all time, and she happens to be black. But what if she would be white? I couldnt care less and in all honesty if we are to progress from stereotyp thinking i think we need to stop paying so much attention to skin color, how about just looking at achievments or the content of ones character for a change, isnt that how things should be?
 
Yes the next serena thing is serious pressure for every AA tennis prospect.

However as black tennis players are getting more normal that might dissipate a little, you also don't call every white tennis talent next Chris evert because it is normal that tennis players are white and hopefully that can happen with black players too.
 
I see it totally differently from your perspective. I think the problem lies with the expectations of the experts and their stereotypical way of seeing black people. They don’t just see Serena as simply one of the great players of all time, they see her as a black female player and any young black female player is expected to slip straight into her shoes simply because of profiling.

Sloane is clearly talented but simply not as prolific a winner as Serena. It’s not as if Sloane has a truckload of achievements and is not celebrated for them because she falls short of Serena’s haul of trophies; she is simply not up there with the best.

Don’t get me started on Coco. The poor girl is being force fed to us because they are desperate to replace the Williams sisters and any promising up and coming black female player is seen as their second coming. I think they are doing a great disservice to Coco by putting far too many pressure on her, expecting her to win every match she plays and not giving her the chance to take her time to develop her game. She is getting frustrated even before she starts.

Taylor Townsend is a good player but not great by any stretch of the imagination.

No other ethnic group is seen in the same way as black players are seen. They don’t think that any promising young Spanish player is the 2nd coming of Rafa because profiling doesn’t apply to them.
I agree it happens more with black players and nobody would do that with a white American but it did happen in other nations too especially smaller tennis nations


In Germany haas and Kiefer when they had some success at 19-20 were seen as "next boris" and when they couldn't fullfil that they received a lot of hate from fans and some media despite having solid but not great careers.

And if the development in Spanish tennis continues that no good young players come up then alcaraz might face the next nadal pressure
 

Phoenix1983

G.O.A.T.
I agree it happens more with black players and nobody would do that with a white American but it did happen in other nations too especially smaller tennis nations


In Germany haas and Kiefer when they had some success at 19-20 were seen as "next boris" and when they couldn't fullfil that they received a lot of hate from fans and some media despite having solid but not great careers.

And if the development in Spanish tennis continues that no good young players come up then alcaraz might face the next nadal pressure
It happened with every half-decent British male player for 75 years. “Can they be the next Fred Perry?”

Now for the next 75 years, it will be, “can they be the next MuryGOAT?”
 

killerboss

Semi-Pro
Lmao nobody really does that with female players regardless of their race (maybe a very small minority). There have been quite a few different slam winners recently in the female game, weak era isn't really a thing there anymore (if it ever was), neither is there a skew of one player winning all the slams now that Serena has stopped winning them. It isn't like the ATP where there are 2/3 players winning everything and the masses are far more invested in what is happening.
 

GhostOfNKDM

Hall of Fame
To be fair, the hype machine is an issue for ALL up-and-coming American players. Male or female. Black or white.

Tennis media personalities in the US (given their incestuous relationship with every national organization related to the sport) are happy to hype up a player early - if the player does well, its good for ratings and reflects well on their 'insider' knowledge and 'I told you so' punditry; if not, they're happy to dump em and become overly critical. Something something about lack of character/fight/not growing up on clay etc etc

Not to mention the extra scrutiny, stereotyping and lecturing if players are from a minority community.

The narrative they create is never the problem..

Players and their families need to have a thick skin to survive this environment.
 

FrontHeadlock

Hall of Fame
To be fair, the hype machine is an issue for ALL up-and-coming American players. Male or female. Black or white.

Tennis media personalities in the US (given their incestuous relationship with every national organization related to the sport) are happy to hype up a player early - if the player does well, its good for ratings and reflects well on their 'insider' knowledge and 'I told you so' punditry; if not, they're happy to dump em and become overly critical. Something something about lack of character/fight/not growing up on clay etc etc

Not to mention the extra scrutiny, stereotyping and lecturing if players are from a minority community.

The narrative they create is never the problem..

Players and their families need to have a thick skin to survive this environment.
This is an exceptionally good point.

One thing about the USA is that they don't really care about sports as much as they care about celebrity, events, and showing that the USA is great (by having world champions).

So you are right that the media in the US knows their ratings are helped by good American players, and so they overhype them.

Even today, Serena because she is famous sucks up like 75% of the American media coverage on women's tennis. It's both annoying and sad.
 

GhostOfNKDM

Hall of Fame
This is an exceptionally good point.

One thing about the USA is that they don't really care about sports as much as they care about celebrity, events, and showing that the USA is great (by having world champions).

So you are right that the media in the US knows their ratings are helped by good American players, and so they overhype them.

Even today, Serena because she is famous sucks up like 75% of the American media coverage on women's tennis. It's both annoying and sad.
Serena wasn't always the darling of the US media either.

Both the sisters never got chummy with the establishment and kept a low profile off court early on. Not saying much in interviews beyond the obvious and being tight lipped about their plans/dreams/expectations; this made them seem cold, aloof, arrogant and even ungrateful for what the sport was giving them, but it was by design.

Richard Williams protected his daughters fiercely and was street smart enough to know the media can lift you high but also drop you from great heights. Especially 2 black girls from the ghetto would get scrutinized over the minutest detail in their lives if they naively opened up their lives to the media. He kept the limelight on himself because he could take whatever public scrutiny (he'd survived a lot) then it'd leave the girls to focus on their tennis.

Its thanks to his courage, defiance and boldness of vision that Serena and Venus achieved as much as they did.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
@Slowtwitcher yesterday after fumbling a point rather badly as I usually do, I was abused by my old doubles partner (originally from the Dominic Republic) because apparently I do not display the genes of Vijay Amritraj.

What can I do?
 

King No1e

G.O.A.T.
When you think of black female tennis players, nobody else stands out more than Serena Williams. No other female athlete stands out more than her, in fact. Her achievements, her drive, her passion, everything that makes Serena, Serena. It makes her stand out, and it makes her shine in a sport which has typically been white-dominated.

Serena Williams is the greatest female player of all time, there’s no two ways around it. But, with all the stuff Serena has achieved and how incredible she is, she unfortunately has been one of the root causes for the downfall of female African American tennis players.

Take, for instance, Sloane Stephens. At such a young age, shes been Top 5 on the WTA rankings, has won a slam, reached another final, and amassed over $15,000,000 in prize money. Not to mention she’s still just 27, and in an age where sports science and medicine is constantly advancing, she’s relatively young. Her resume looks pretty good, and most tennis players, male or female, would die for that kind of career.

However, Sloane is seen as an abject disappointment. A dud, a flop, an overrated fluff of a player. But... why? I mean, she’s got a lot going for her and still makes money on tour, so what’s the problem? Unfortunately, Sloane is one of many victims of “Serena Syndrome”, a term I use for female tennis players, usually African American, who have been compared to Serena Williams. There’s a simple 4 step process in which these players fall into the syndrome.

1. By no fault of their own, be African-American
2. Win lots of junior titles and burst onto the scene
3. Media draws comparisons to Serena
4. Whatever they achieve is overshadowed

Sloane has unfortunately fallen into this syndrome, no doubt a successful tennis player, she isn’t seen as one. She isn’t even seen as a good tennis player. All because she was compared to Serena at such a young age, and her achievements PALE in comparison.

Sasha Vickery and Taylor Townsend are recent victims. Both African-American, decent juniors, started doing their rounds on tour, and BAM. Serena comparisons.

The most alarming thing about this trend is how people are starting it with the up and coming players, Robin Montgomery and especially Coco Gauff. Coco is the most talented player we’ve seen out of the US for a few years now. After her Wimbledon performances last year, we once again saw the Serena comparisons. I just hope she doesn’t let this get into her head. Coco needs to focus on being Coco. A career with 6 slams and 35 weeks at No. 1 is damn impressive, but it will inevitably be overshadowed by Serena.

Instead of comparing these talented girls to one outlier who’s never going to be surpassed, we need to embrace them. Sloane is not Serena, she is Sloane and always has been. Coco is not Serena, she is Coco and always will be.
Yep. We'll probably be the same problem on the men's side with Spanish clay-courters.
 

Bhagi Katbamna

Hall of Fame
What about Donald Old? Is he better than Serena?
I really feel sorry for him. He was hyped by the media and McEnroe before he was ready by the desperation of the media trying to hype minority tennis players. It brought him more scrutiny that probably affected his career in an extremely negative way.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
I really feel sorry for him. He was hyped by the media and McEnroe before he was ready by the desperation of the media trying to hype minority tennis players. It brought him more scrutiny that probably affected his career in an extremely negative way.
Or maybe he reached his potential and made a lot of money because of the hype.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
Naomi Osaka needs to be in the discussion.

On the other hand, Li Na has not been seen as a barrier to upcoming Chinese women.
 
Yes, putting pressure on tennis players plays part in sometimes them succumbing to it, but that is not unique to the black tennis players, so unless it is shown that that is more specific to them it is not a valid point regarding this issue on its own.

No, Sloane is not undervalued. She has 1 (ONE) Major, which puts her on the line of the cookie cutter "one slam" wonders. Whether she is young at 27 Is debatable. Players that rely on their power certainly won't get much more powerful going forward, so one hopes that she is not in that category, but that remains to be seen. Thiem doesn't get much more respect, despite of vastly overshadowing her career achievements. Accidentally he is her age and at least one of the people that he plays with, who enjoys similar status as Serena is about Serena's age. Thiem is obviously white male European, so maybe it is an apt reminder as to how fair Sloane's treatment has been.

:cool:
 
@Slowtwitcher yesterday after fumbling a point rather badly as I usually do, I was abused by my old doubles partner (originally from the Dominic Republic) because apparently I do not display the genes of Vijay Amritraj.

What can I do?
This thread is weird, I mostly see only your posts, are you by chance debating a racist/covidiot?
 

Zetty

Hall of Fame
They want another Rena so bad, it's a weird fetishism with the fans and a profit motive with the sponsors.
 
D

Deleted member 771911

Guest
I am not buying Sloane is 'relatively young.'
She is 27. There may be all these medicinal advances, but not every player is going to be strong in their 30s. The ones who are are supermotivated. Does Sloane strike anyone as supermotivated? She looks super happy to me with her partner and her lifestyle and achievements.
I don't have anything to say about the rest of the post except we shouldn't really speak for Sloane as to how she feels about being in Serena's shadow and any pressure. I would like to hear how she feels about it.
 
D

Deleted member 771911

Guest
Also, I want to say I don't count Sloane or Coco as victims of anything in terms of being compared to Serena. Being compared to Serena does not make you a victim. It makes you pretty special in fact to even have your name mentioned in the same sentence as her.
 

RiverRat

Professional
The title of this thread is just plain wrong, if not racist, whether intentional or not. The OP should have written, "The Problem CONFRONTING female African American Players. There is no problem WITH female African American tennis players. I just can't let that go in good conscience. I think the direction of the conversation has been mostly positive, but there's also a whole lot of white privilege opining on this topic, which should be spending more time listening and asking questions. The biggest obstacles facing African American females in tennis have little to do with Serena or comparisons to her. In fact, even implicating Serena in the problems of African American female tennis players is, itself, problematic.
 
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