Back in 1991 when Inglewood’s Fabulous Forum was home to teams like the Lakers and the Kings and not primarily to some church and the occasional concert, the place was also host to a regular series of exhibition tennis matches featuring the greats and/or legends of the day. Of the several matches I went to that year the one I remember most was between Jimmy Conners and John McEnroe, but I don’t remember it because of them and I don’t remember it because the undercard celebrity doubles match featuring the likes of meteorologist Dallas Raines and I think Patrick Duffy and it doesn’t matter who else.
What was unforgettable from that night some 16 years ago were the two little girls, sisters from Compton, who took to the court with little fanfare before all that. Neither much taller than the net, they warmed up quickly and played a few games, each of them focused and competitive as if they were in a real tournament and both demonstrating skill and talent and power and control far beyond their 9 and 10 years of age that left my jaw in the dropped and locked position as my head pivoted side to side in awe. They hit the ball so hard and moved so well that I just knew I was watching a pair of future stars of the game.
Sure enough in their storied careers as professional tennis players both have both been ranked No. 1 in the world. And though Serena would only get to the quarter finals before being eliminated earlier this past week at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, her elder sibling just won her fourth Wimbeldon title yesterday.
Congratulations Venus. It’s my pleasure and honor to be able to say “Way back when I saw the champion in you then.”