Some big names in tennis are also giving back.
Roger Federer recently visited Ethiopia, and I commend him for his involvement in the development of Africa, with his foundation spending $1 million per year on education across the continent. Tennis is not yet a prominent sport in Africa, but they all know who Roger Federer is. He was greeted by songs of “Roger, our father” that brought tears to his eyes. Chants of “Number one! Number one!” showed that they knew who he was as tennis professional. It is also clear that he is a world-class person. The people of Ethiopia rightfully adore Roger for what he has done on the tennis court and what he is doing for Africa.
Serena Williams is also committed to helping Africa. In 2008, she visited Kenya and commissioned her first school to be built. Very recently, she vowed to build one school per year in parts of Africa that had none. Serena is not only an incredible ambassador for the sport of tennis, but also for humankind.
Sport has the power to transcend across the globe and brings people together no matter their socio-economic status or their background, and all it takes is one player to inspire an entire nation. I am reminded of a former student of mine, Anna Kournikova, who created a Russian tennis frenzy that led to a wave of top players. The appeal of tennis spans across the globe because the idea is simple: you have a ball in one hand, a racket in the other, and a partner across the net – now compete! I would love to see the sport take a strong hold in these poorer nations because of that ability to inspire. There will always be places for tennis to teach life lessons through hard work, practice and drive. This holds true in Ethiopia and all of Africa.
Looking back, I see some irony in taking from a country that seemingly has nothing, even if it was by adopting a child. For every child adopted in Ethiopia, there are countless others that remain in their home country with little to do and few resources to do anything about it. The infrastructure of education that is being created is vital for Africa, and I see endless opportunity for the development of athletics as well.
Tennis has done so many things for me in my life, and I have seen what it can do for thousands of others. It is a sport that you can play throughout your lifetime, and it is one of the most rewarding things you can do. I think it is a matter of time before we see more players from Africa and I know with people like Roger and Serena helping out, we are on the right track!