Seattle’s Quinn Sanders, 14, and Sky Dior Nelson, 10, know the story of another pair of sisters, Venus and Serena Williams, all too well.
The killer serves brute force. Childhood in Compton, California, and an unprecedented path to stardom that did not include junior tennis. The mother who trained them, the older siblings who supported them, and the father with an extraordinary – and ambitious plan.
“Every member of [Serena’s] Family played a role in her success. Nelson said.
“My sister helped me, just like Serena and Venus.”
And at Pratt Park Sports Court in the Central District, they are applying some of what Williams has taught the world of sports.
The sisters refer to themselves as “Glow Girls,” who participate in a training and leadership program for girls of color in grades 8-11 in Seattle.
Another person hoping to grow the tennis community in Seattle is former WTA Tour player Vania King, who grew up in Southern California with great influence from the Williams sisters. She said they had fairly similar backgrounds, and her father was inspired by Richard Williams. Richard remembers it, saying hello and checking in whenever they cross paths at tournaments.
King won the Wimbledon and US Open women’s doubles titles in 2010 with Yaroslava Shvedova. They also reached the 2011 US Open final.
She faced Serena in singles twice in the US Open round of 64, in 2014 and 2016. Serena won in both.
“It was a surreal experience doing this,” King said. “It has changed my life, countless young girls and families’ lives.
“Someone who can break the barriers of sport. Before that, there was no one who fit the mold that someone like me could identify with.”
King retired from playing last year and is the founder and CEO of Serving Up Hope, which has partnered with the YMCA of Greater Seattle. It helps with training and helps start tennis programs.
King described the tennis community in Seattle as “very young” but supportive. She’s part of a group that has monthly brainstorming calls.
“Finding ways, collaboratively, to grow together, which is frankly unusual in tennis,” King said. “We do our best to save resources and work together.”
On these monthly calls is Riley Havitz, managing director of the Seattle Tennis and Education Foundation (STEF), which offers free programs to low-income families living in and near Magnuson Park. The program attempts to reduce the stigma of tennis being a wealthy and elite sport, and to make it accessible to anyone who wants to try it out as much as possible. STEF gives PowerPoint presentations in schools, and Havitz said Serena is the most popular professional tennis player to date.
She was also a role model for Hafitz.
“I think it was incredibly inspiring and powerful,” Hefetz said. “It’s made around: Strong women are beautiful, and strong women are amazing,” Hefetz said.
Aside from the obvious benefits—socialization, mental and physical health—the goal of these programs is to create a pipeline to high school tennis. Sanders is ready to join the Garfield High team as a freshman in the spring. That’s in the distance for Nelson, who has played just over a year. The backhand gets stronger.
Although she is the younger sister, she prefers the older sister Venus.
“She’s like me. She’s a fast hitter, and I love her confidence,” Nelson said.
Sanders and Nelson’s mother, Quisa Wright, received an application for a new and active hobby a few weeks after the family watched the Academy Award-winning movie “King Richard” about the Williams family and early years.
This is how they met Christina Broadwin, director of programs for the nonprofit Sports in Schools. Broadwin asked Wright to help find potential recruits for Girls Leading Our World (GLOW), an eight-week program at the Amy Yee Tennis Center, where she works as a coach. The program is free, with the idea that registrants will pay it up front by coaching younger players.
asked Wright around him, surprised with enthusiasm.
“You never know with children of color what will go down, what will interest you, especially because you don’t see it often in your community,” Wright said. “So that surprised me. But there was a really great response.”
GLOW supplied the family with tennis rackets and balls, and now the GLOW girls play with Wright and their brother in Pratt Park. It becomes competitive, but everyone helps each other.
On Friday, Sanders kept score and gave tips like “Team Yin and Yang” – she and her brother – played doubles against Nelson and her friend, “dramatic best friends.” They got past the frustration and relied on the family, as the Williams sisters once did.
King recently had an enviable view on Serena’s possible last Grand Slam, doing radio work to broadcast the US Open around the world.
“Venus and Serena were both dynamic and energetic and they brought something new to the game,” King said. “From a practical point of view, they transformed the game in terms of sport and strength. So it really brought the game into a new era.”
Serena and Venus reunited for their first doubles match in more than four years, 25 years after they made their debut as a tournament couple, in the first round of the US Open on September 1. They lost 7-6 (5), 6-4 to Lucie Hradecka and Linda Noskova.
Wright’s concert planned for Sunday, September 2 was canceled when Serena was knocked out in the third round by Agla Tomljanovic 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-1. It was the most watched television broadcast of tennis in ESPN’s 43-year history. An average of 4.6 million viewers tuned in.
It is expected to be her final competition.
“I’m sad, but also excited, because I’m also seeing new players,” said Nelson.
However, you will never forget your first favourite.
“No one does it better,” Sanders said.
Want to try tennis?
Tennis Aces Program
A free six-week program for middle school students in Seattle with a focus on schools with the highest percentage of students eligible for the free and reduced lunch program. Speculators are provided to hold. The classes meet twice a week after school with the final “camp”, where players represent their schools.
“The barriers to this sport are very low, in fact. There is a stigma that it’s not for people of color, the BIPOC community, it’s a sport for a white person, it’s a sport for a white person,” said Kristina Broadwin, Amy Yee Tennis Center coach and director of the Schools Sports Program. You just need a racket, a ball, a wall—and maybe a friend. It is, or should be, one of the most accessible sports. We’re trying to make some forays there.”
Each fall more than 100 children join the program, which is funded through donations and grants. See a list of schools and more at sportsinschools.org.
The Seattle Tennis and Education Foundation (STEF) offers free programs twice a week at Magnuson Park to second through sixth graders who qualify for free or reduced lunch. No prior knowledge of tennis is required and all program materials are provided.
We see stef4youth.org for more information.
With programs in Uganda, Los Angeles, Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and Seattle, this organization founded by retired pro tennis player Vania King offers beginner tennis programs in Matt Griffin’s YMCA (SeaTac) and Northshore YMCA (Bothell), according to serveuphope.org. Check the website for age groups and fall dates.
Clarification: Quisa Wright and her children play on the Pratt Park sports field, not on the tennis courts as originally reported.