Williams sisters visit Soweto

2012-11-03 18:00
Venus & Serena Williams (Gallo Images)

Soweto - Scores of starry-eyed teens in oversized sports kit on Saturday queued patiently for their turn to play tennis with US champions Serena and Venus Williams in South Africa's famous Soweto township.

Five to a side, two groups at a time, the young hopefuls in white T-shirts and red caps played their best shots, determined to catch the attention of the world's greatest tennis sisters.

"Move your feet!" cried Serena Williams as the youngsters neatly returned balls over the net at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre, named after the first black American tennis player ever to win a Grand Slam.

Other returns went wide prompting frustrated looks on the young players' faces.

"Remember to always keep your eyes on the ball," Serena advised.

Their tennis heroes' visit is not lost on the aspiring tennis players.

"It was exciting and scary at the same time," said 12-year-old Mmabatho Makutu after her session.

"I learnt a lot, like volley, forehand, backhand and smashes."

The Williams sisters have travelled to South Africa to promote the sport among Africans, especially girls, after a similar visit to Nigeria earlier this week.

Organisers of the "Breaking the Mould" tour hope to inspire girls to achieve their dreams.

"Having the opportunity to show these women you can break the mould... can really create champions," Serena explained earlier during a news conference.

"Here at the courts they call me 'Little Serena', because I have what it takes to be her," said Mmabatho Makgale, 12, after playing on the star's side in a mini-doubles match against Venus's team, which Serena's team won.

Mmabatho decided she wanted to become a professional player after she saw one of Serena's matches as a six-year-old on television.

"I just knew that this was what I wanted to do," she said.

Others who didn't take part were happy to watch from the sidelines.

"I'm a little shy," said Lulu Dwanya, eight, her head swamped by a white cap which Venus Williams signed for her.

Tennis in South Africa is facing troubled times.

This year's South African Open and Soweto Open were both cancelled because of a lack of sponsors, and tennis remains the sport of the affluent.

Few people can afford lessons for their children and live close to decent facilities.

"This is really going to inspire our kids, especially our girls," Tennis South Africa president Bongani Zondi told journalists.

The national association runs development programmes in disadvantaged communities in seven urban hubs across the country.

"Those of us coming from townships know that there are too many challenges," said Zondi.

"Especially girls face more challenges than boys."

Read more on:    serena williams  |  venus williams  |  soweto  |  tennis


Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.
Live Video Streaming
  • Blitz
    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @00:00
  • SS1
    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @01:00
  • SS2
    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @02:00
  • SS3
    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 @03:00
Sport Talk

Live scoring

Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter


30 of the world's greatest golfers will be heading to the Gary Player Country Club for this year's Nedbank Golf Challenge - now in its 35th year. For all the latest news, player profiles, hole-by-hole descriptions and past winners, be sure to check out Sport24's dedicated section.

Latest blogs

Which is your favourite Grand Slam of the year?

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.