ReutersCOMPTON, Calif. (Reuters) — U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens on Thursday unveiled refurbished tennis courts at a school in impoverished Compton, California, the latest in an ongoing effort by the African American player to expand the reach of the sport to minorities.
Four hundred elementary and middle school students gathered to join the world No. 9 for a lesson on a sun-soaked day on the crisp blue courts, which were paid for by Stephens’ foundation and the Compton Unified School District.
Standing amid the children in a city where more than a quarter of residents live in poverty, Stephens told Reuters that to expose inner city kids to the game requires engaging directly with the neighborhoods that need it most.
“We have to go into communities that are underprivileged and under-served and introduce tennis to them,” Stephens said.
“It’s very hands-on and it’s not easy. But to get into a school district like Compton, where there are a lot of minorities, is perfect because you give everyone the opportunity to play,” added the Florida native who trains in nearby Carson.
“It’s a lot of reach without having to go really far.”
Compton is already etched into tennis history as the place where Serena and Venus Williams learned the game from their father Richard in the mid-1990s in lessons that were sometimes interrupted by the sound of nearby gunfire.
With courts in the works at Compton’s Manuel Dominguez High School and Compton High School, Stephens said the tennis transformation taking place could be an example for other communities where basketball and football are dominant.