Stephens and Keys: the new African-American tennis stars?

While Sloane Stephen’s victory in an all-black final at the US Open certainly got us Africans pretty hyped up, could this new generation be the one to ensure the continued domination of black women tennis players after the Williams’ sisters?

By Carlo Chikomba

24-year-old American Sloane Stephens, ranked 83rd until Monday, stunned the world when she defeated 15th seed Madison Keys 6-3 6-0 in just 61 minutes to win the US Open title.

The African American won her first ever Grand Slam title over fellow compatriot in what was the first all-Black final at the U.S. Open since Serena defeated Venus for the title in 2002.

Before that the semi-final had, for the first time ever, featured three Black women in the form of Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys.

This represents a remarkable shift of odds for the black race as in historical context, outside of Venus and Serena Williams, only three other Black players have won grand slam tournaments in singles competition: Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe Jr. and Yannick Noah.

However, it is also important to note that for many years Black players were denied access to the sport’s top championship events. Back then, it was players like Gibson and Ashe broke barriers that allowed for the Williams sisters to dominate in the sport and their achievements ushered in a new generation of talent.

But just when we thought we had seen the best of Black women dominating the sport of tennis, a new crop of young stars are beginning to emerge: Meet Grand Slam finalists Sloane Stephen and Madison Keys.

Budding star Sloane Stephens is a 24-year-old tennis player from Florida, and the daughter of Sybil Smith who was the first Black woman to be named First-Team All American in Division I swimming history. Her opponent on Saturday, Madison Keys, also hails from Florida, and at just 22-years-old has some of the fastest groundstrokes on the WTA Tour.

Unsurprisingly, both players have cited the Williams sisters as inspirations, and are more likely going to be an inspiration for forthcoming black women tennis players in the generations to come should they maintain their rich form.

Which is good news for the black Americans who, after having seen Serena Williams go on maternity leave and the ever-defiant 37-year old Venus Williams apparently not getting any younger, had begun to fear that their dominant race in the sport genre was coming to an end.

As for us Africans, we are all just happy to see the continued presence of our descendants from another continent take centre stage on the tennis court and hope that in some years to come, we will eventually see an African-African win the Grand Slam title.

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