I love basketball. I follow soccer whenever I have nothing important to do but for life’s sterner lessons, I watch the sport of TENNIS.
Tennis is where time really passes. Tennis is brutal. Younger players shock historicals with heart-wrenching defeats, served raw on the court.
There’s this match still raw in my mind. It is the 2018 Grand Slam, in the antebellum world before Covid, pitting Naomi Osaka against Serena Williams.
In that game, Naomi beat Serena, sparingly at first, and then in the last stages of the game, so decisively that the sold-out crowd which had come to cheer Serena, booed Osaka for winning!
Naomi hurt the feelings of the Serena fan base – the tennis world until then – that she felt obliged to apologize to them.
“I know that everyone was cheering for Williams, and I’m sorry it had to end like this,” she offered.
Not that they didn’t like her. No, they didn’t know her. And in America, until you are known, it is back-breaking.
That crowd knew Serena. They’d come to cheer Serena, that tennis behemoth who had so profoundly changed the sport; for black girls like Naomi and for everyone else, placing tennis in two epochs – BS and AS (Before Serena and After Serena).
By Osaka defeating Serena, she upended a whole system of reality that had been welded in people’s hearts, for decades.
In yet another match, again, Osaka, still very young herself but now with a name, had the unfortunate honour of ‘inducting’ another would be great – the young Coco Gauff – into the game.
She defeated Gauff so brutally she called her to join in the post-match interview, usually reserved for the victor, if only to make her feel there will be better days ahead, for her.
Those days came this week.
Coco Gauff too has a name now.