US tennis star feels some people don’t want Black players to succeed in pro tennis, and is tired of people assuming they must.
As a teenager, a white male tennis prodigy was trying the unthinkable.
Playing for the first time at a Grand Slam tournament, an athlete of such obvious potential was going to be the biggest draw in the tournament. Yet in those early days he was overshadowed by the likes of his black teammates, who were being treated as some sort of side show.
The teenager, 22-year-old Jordan Thompson, was the new kid on the block. His white tennis skills were not considered great, he was told. He just had to play.
Jordan Thompson has just reached the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his career
Thompson would play tennis full-time for a year, and he didn’t have to. His white coach, Andy Miller, used his experience to find a black male tennis prodigy he thought could turn into the next player.
Miller knew a lot about black sport. He had been involved in the sport for more than 20 years, both as an athlete and at a charity called Positive Impact Africa.
He knew people in black sport. He could relate to what happened in the sport.
He found Thompson, a player with limited tennis skills but a great attitude and big heart. He set up his first camp in a park in Atlanta and started to teach him tennis.
When he did, Thompson’s coach, Andy Miller, saw the potential in the kid and took him to Grand Slam tournaments in the States. His tennis skills were not great, so he would teach him other sports, such as basketball.
In 1997, Thompson reached the final of the US Masters tournament, the most prestigious and glamorous tournament on the ATP tour, beating some of the best tennis players in the world including Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt.
Thompson went on to win 10 Grand Slam singles titles, which he held through 2011.
But to hear the black tennis players tell it, they never had much of a chance in their careers to make it big because of the colour