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What's The 411Sports is a weekly sports news and commentary television show produced by the Brooklyn-based independent television production company, What's The 411TV, which also produces What's The 411, an award-winning weekly entertainment and lifestyle television show.

The What's The 411Sports' promotional video consists of interviews with athletes from professional sports and college teams, sports executives, and fans.

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Serena Williams Beats Simona Halep to Win Fifth WTA Finals

Legendary tennis player, Serena Williams, won her third successive WTA Finals title and fifth overall by beating Simona Halep 6-3, 6-0 on Sunday.

Halep easily beat Williams just four days earlier during the group stage of the tournament, but Williams stepped up with an aggressive game plan for the big win.

Williams won 11 of the last 12 games in the match to join Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf as the only players to have won five titles in the season-ending championships.

"I just started training, because I had such a bad knee in Beijing I didn't know if I'd be able to play here, and now I have won the Billie-Jean King trophy -- I am so excited," Williams told ESPN.

"I was nervous before the match that I had to play this big final," Halep said. "I couldn't manage very well the situation."

With this win, Williams claimed the $2 million first prize, claimed the Billie-Jean King Trophy, and also had a breed of orchid named after her in recognition.

Way to go, Serena!

  • Published in Tennis

Mind of Monfils

If you're looking for an extra dose of excitement during a tennis match, you have to tune in the Frenchman, Gael Monfils.

Whether he is sliding side-to-side in nearly full splits, or executing jaw-dropping, between-the-legs shots, his performance on the court continuously keeps you in awe. Couple his athleticism with a free-spirited personality, and you have yourself one of the most fascinating players in tennis today.

Gael-Monfils Getty-Images

French professional tennis player, Gael Monfils. Photo: Getty Images

Monfils, ranked No. 20 at the 2014 US Open, advanced to the quarterfinals in the tournament for the second time in his career. In the quarters, Gael was leading two sets to love against 5-time US Open Champion Roger Federer, and unluckily let it slip away-- twice--failing to convert two match-points in the fourth set, before losing in five.

"I was saying to myself, keep it simple and try to make Roger play them because I knew that he will force it ... he will put the first ball in and then for sure come to the net very quick," Monfils said in reference to the two match-point opportunities. "So it was more like be relaxed and just lean a bit more on my forehand return and try to make it. And then we just played those two points, and well done [for Roger]."

Monfils did not dwell too hard on the loss, as he recently called Federer an idol and the legend of tennis. "I come strong. I played good, I [stuck] to my tactic, I was happy that I could do it. I was happy that also -- you know, sometime when you want to do [well], it's tough to deliver." He continued. "At the end I'm frustrated, but I'm happy. I think I gave my best. Simply Roger was too good at the end...I need a bit of time to forget this, but then it (will) give me more motivation."

Gael-Monfils Roger-Federer 2009-French-Open Ryan-Pierse Getty Images-Europe

Gael Monfils (left) Roger Federer (right) at 2009 Men's Singles Quarter Final French Open at Roland Garros in Paris, France. Ryan Pierse/Getty Images Europe

A professional tennis player who hasn't had a coach since November 2012 and won't settle for just anyone, Monfils should be commended for maintaining his physical and mental toughness.

"For sure it's better to have a coach. I won't lie to you. It's better to have someone to help you. I need it. But as I say all the time, it's not easy to feel someone. That person has to be -- has to be, for me, like good, first of all, but has to be hard and also understand my personality. Because I don't think I'm easy, but I think I'm quite a good worker."

Monfils knows the type of coach he wants and has reached out to a select few, but they aren't able to travel full time.

As Monfils remains coachless, it's just him and his Coca Cola (yes, that's right.) During changeovers you can catch him quenching his thirst with a cold Coke. "Well, sometime, you know, I just feel like I want a Coke, and I drink a Coke," Monfils said while smiling.

Before leaving New York after a long run at the Open, Monfils was given a personalized can of Coca Cola by the company as part of their "Share a Coke" campaign.

Gael-Monfils Coca-Cola Twitter

The US Open and New York City is practically a second home for Monfils, as New York was the first place he traveled to overseas with his parents, who are Caribbean. His late father introduced him to family friends in the Bronx.

"Then he [my father] showed me that the community, the black community was behind me. I was not aware about that also, here. You know, and then they started to come to the stadium, bring me that energy, and then they just [taught] me that here that I can feel ... at home and I have a second family also, as I say as even in the French Open," Monfil said explaining why New York City is so important to him.

"So when I feel good, the crowd is behind me and has great spirit, [then] I think I can be very tough to beat."

Monfils has the talent and can win a Grand Slam Title; however, it's simply a matter of him staying healthy, focused, and understanding court position throughout matches. His highest world rank is No. 7 and the furthest he has advanced in a Grand Slam was the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2008.

In the midst of watching Monfils win a title, you can sit back and relish his raw talent. And if you are lucky enough you can "Share a Coke" with Gael.

Watch Video: Gael Monfils and Laurent Lokoli performing in a dance battle during a rain delay at Roland Garros in May 2014.

  • Published in Tennis

D.A. Abrams: Using Diversity and Inclusion as a Strategy for Growth

D. A. Abrams has spent most of his career, and probably his life, in tennis. As the United States Tennis Association's Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Mr. Abram's primary focus is to use the strategy of diversity and inclusion to grow the sport of tennis in United States.

The USTA recognizes that there is a demographic shift happening in the United States and that there are more people of color living here currently and the numbers are projected to grow rapidly. Smartly, the USTA is not resting on its laurels. The organization is employing a top-down, "all hands on deck" approach to diversity and inclusion to grow the organization and the sport of tennis. Abrams knows that if more people of color are doing well in the sport of tennis, more people of color will be attracted to the sport.

"The mission of the United States Tennis Association is to promote and develop the growth of tennis," D.A. Abrams told What's The 411Sports host, Glenn Gilliam during the U.S. OPEN 2014. "So the way in which I like to describe what I do is making tennis look like America and we have an all-hands-on-deck approach, to how we intend to make that happen. We have a strategic direction of six different pillars which... it really covers everything, not just young kids playing tennis. Everything from the volunteers, to the staff, to supplier diversity, you name it, we're trying to touch it all."

The six pillars that undergirds the USTA's strategic approach to growing tennis through diversity and inclusion are:

• Human Assets

• Image

• Supplier Diversity

• Sections and Community Engagement

• Strategic Partnerships

• Training and Development

Abrams, a native of Philadelphia, grew up playing tennis through the National Junior Tennis & Learning system in Philadelphia. He credits Arthur Ashe for his motivation to play tennis after seeing Arthur Ashe playing tennis on television. Abrams didn't turn pro, but much to the delight of his parents, he was good enough to receive a tennis scholarship to pay for his college expenses. Abrams' first job out of college was with Control Data Corporation in St. Paul/Minneapolis. However, working as an accountant with a supercomputer company just didn't feed his soul and when the first opportunity to work in the tennis industry presented itself, Abrams was on the first train back to the world of tennis. Abrams' life in tennis in the community and his career with the USTA spans several operational areas making Abrams the best person to serve as its Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

Thanks to D.A. Abrams, USTA, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for allowing Glenn Gilliam to conduct a wide-ranging interview.

Michael Mmoh Making Moves toward Professional Career

After an exhaustive 2 hour and 30 minute action-packed rally, American junior Michael Mmoh, No. 10, was knocked out in the first round against unranked Yunseong Chung from Korea at the 2014 US Open Junior Boys' Singles.

Mmoh dominated the first set but suddenly the 90-degree Fahrenheit heat and his frustration with play calling, combined with a persistent comeback from Chung got the best of him and he lost, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6.

The 16-year-old Mmoh explained his perspective on playing at a junior level.

"I felt a lot of pressure today. My other friends are rivals and have won so you don't want to be left behind, kind of in the dust. Because I was the 10th seed here obviously I was supposed to do better than losing first round."

One of Mmoh's closest friends, Francis Tiafoe, No. 1, is amongst one of his rivals in the junior singles circuit.

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Francis Tiafoe (left) and Michael Mmoh (right) made their doubles debut in the professional circuit representing USA at the 2014 US Open and extended their journey to the second round. Photo by: Mike Lawrence // USopen.org

"There's also a different mentality when you're playing them (pros). There's no pressure, just playing the game to your fullest, compared to juniors where there are high expectations. It's different and it's amazing how much (your play) can change with pressure and without pressure." Mmoh said after experiencing a minor dosage of what will come in the near future as he prepares to perform in the pro circuit.

"Two years ago I played US Open Juniors I won a round, and same thing back then, no pressure. I was playing and going for everything and believing in everything. It's just different. It's good for me though...experiencing the pressure because if I do make it to the top then obviously the pressure is ten times more."

Right now Mmoh is focusing on performing in the pro circuit and looks up to Frenchman Gael Monfils.

"I like his personality and I think we have a similar game."

They both have a strong serve, forehand, and similar sliding technique. Mmoh's 6'2", 190 lbs stature and power should be advantageous in the pro circuit. He's been training at IMG Academy, led by Nick Bollettieri, the legend who helped produce US tennis great Andre Agassi.

Michael-Mmoh 2014-US-OPEN Junior-Boys-Singles-First-Round-against-Yunseong-Chung Chris-Trotman Getty-Images

Michael Mmoh at 2014 US Open Junior Boys' Singles first round match against Yunseong
Chung Photo by: Chris Trotman// Getty Images

But will college ever be a part of Mmoh's future? "Right now, no. I really love the sport of tennis," Mmoh said with certainty.

Even though his three older siblings graduated from the University of Maryland and he visited the campus several times, becoming a professional tennis player is his primary focus.

"College is nice but I don't want to get distracted. I especially don't want the social life to affect my tennis game. I want to be a pro."

His peer, Noah Rubin, who was a wildcard in the 2014 US Open, entered his freshman year at Wake Forest University with a scholarship where his schedule will allow him to play pro events. After Rubin completes his freshman year he is able to leave the university and return at any
time to complete his degree.

Mmoh wasn't completely aware of that type of scholarship opportunity. He said he would have to investigate more on how to play collegiate tennis that is able to help leverage his professional career.

"You never know what may happen two years from now but right now I am focusing on tennis," Mmoh concluded.

One would think Mmoh would be interested in attending business school with his entrepreneurial experience since he created a mobile app at the age of 13 called "Over-snow."
It's a game where you tap away falling snowflakes before they reach the ground. It is useful to enhance hand-eye coordination.

"For now nothing really grabs my attention," Mmoh said in terms of a future career outside of tennis. Like many athletes, or anyone in general, you can never catch him without wearing his red Beats by Dre headphones.

"But maybe it would be really good to be the owner of Beats." Mmoh quickly said while glancing at his headphones.

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Michael Mmoh close friend and doubles partner Francis Tiafoe being interviewed while rocking his red Beats by Dre

The son of former ATP pro and Nigerian Olympian Tony Mmoh, and coached by former ATP pro Glenn Weiner, Michael is making moves to play professional events regularly. Two years is a long time for Mmoh to evaluate whether or not he plans to attend college. For now, he'll continue to develop his game- especially mentally like he referenced, and go to Futures tournaments and increase his ATP ranking.

Update: On October 26, 2014, Mmoh achieved a career milestone and made tennis history by winning his first professional tournament title at the City of Brownsville Men's Pro Tennis Classic in Brownsville, Texas becoming the youngest player to win a USTA men's Pro Circuit event since Rhyne Williams who won the Pittsburgh Futures in 2007.

  • Published in Tennis

D.A. Abrams: USTA's Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer

"The TEAM USA initiative is an effort to further create and implement a structure that includes personal coaches, USTA Sections and USTA Player Development working closer together to help create the next wave of world-class American players. Our vision is to be even more inclusive, collaborative and supportive, so that promising young players from all over the country will have the best chance to maximize their potential." -
Patrick McEnroe - GM USTA Player Development

Potential is what the US Open Qualifying Tournament is all about and takes place the week before official tournament play at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. It gives the fans a chance to see many of the game's future stars, from around the world, compete against each other and for free. Many of today's most promising American tennis prospects are black and female. Young players such as Tornado Alicia Black (16), Taylor Townsend (18), Madison Keys (19), Sachia Vickery (19), Victoria Duval (19), Sloane Stevens (20), Alexandra Stevenson, Asia Muhammad (23) and Angela Haynes (24) and don't discount the young men, Francis Tiafoe, Michael Mmoh as well as former Junior Champion Donald Young. And they may owe much of their interest in the game to the groundbreaking success of Venus and Serena Williams.

However, equal credit must be given to the US Tennis Association's (USTA) Diversity and Inclusion programs, initiatives and the people who make it work. Deservingly, no one exemplifies the desires and benefits of the organization more than the USTA's Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, D. A. Abrams, and his journey and the ever-evolving policies of D&I are a perfect marriage of potential maximized.

David Anthony Abrams has spent his adult professional life working in the game he loves after being attracted to tennis from the images of the incomparable Arthur Ashe he saw as a youngster. His affection can be seen in the lessons the sport taught him, the education it provided him and his desire to see it represented by all who felt like himself. What's The 411's interview was a great opportunity to get these complimentary stories on the record and to reflect our mutual goal, present information as a call to action, support tennis diversity and hopefully, to be an impetus to help you follow your dreams. Enjoy the video interview with USTA's D.A. Abrams below!

Watch: Interview with USTA's D.A. Abrams

A partial conversation between D.A. Abrams and Glenn Gilliam follows:

WT411: We're here at the 2014 US Open Tennis Championships and we have the distinct pleasure of having the Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer joining us today, Mr. D.A. Abrams. DA, thanks so much for being here.

D.A. Abrams: Oh it's really a pleasure to be here, thanks so much for having me.

WT411: How important is it to have your young stars of color represent, be successful and it helps your cause?

D.A. Abrams: First and foremost if you take note of the demographic change in the country, the fact of the matter there are more people of color living here so it just makes sense for us to have more people of color doing well in the sport of tennis. I mean that's the way we're going to attract more folks of color, in my judgment.

WT411: What is the Chief of Diversity & Inclusion's responsibilities generally and what other departments do you oversee?

D.A. Abrams: The mission of the USTA is to promote and develop the growth of tennis, so the way in which I like to describe what I do is making tennis look like America. And we have an all-hands-on-deck approach, to how we intend to make that happen. We have strategic direction of six different pillars which really covers everything, not just young kids playing tennis. Everything from the volunteers, to the staff, to supplier diversity, you name it we're trying to touch it all.

WT411: Do your programs talk about the history of the game, Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe and Dr. Robert Walter Johnson their coach, to help build your volunteers and fan base and get folks excited about it?

D.A. Abrams: So earlier I said we have an all-hands-on-deck approach to how we are going to increase diversity for the betterment of the game. I talked a little bit about our pillars. The first one is human assets, so human assets is everything from volunteers, to staff, to providers, to coaches, to fans and ultimately to players, right? We believe that we need to diversify all of that in order to most effectively promote and develop the growth of tennis. The next one is image. You asked the question earlier regarding Arthur Ashe, Althea Gibson, I mean we want to make sure that we're putting out very positive images and we want to make sure that we're showing folks that hey you too can play this sport. So image both internally and externally is very, very important to us.

WT411: With regards to your tenure with the USTA, how did it start, how long have you been in this role, have you always had a love for tennis and what was your role prior to the Chief Officer?

D.A. Abrams: I've been with the USTA for a long time, since 1993, that's 20 plus years, but I've been in this role for a little over two and a half years. I started off as the national coordinator for a program called National Junior Tennis & Learning, which was founded by Arthur Ashe and a couple of other fellas way back in the day, 1969 or so. I did that for a while, I did Minority Participation that's what we used to call it before it became Diversity and Inclusion. From there, I became Executive Director of one of those 17 sections we talked about, did that for 4 years and then came back to the national office to serve as the Director of the NJTL. We had created its own department, which then grew into covering Special Populations, Adaptive Tennis, Wheelchair Tennis, Awards, so it became much more than what it was when I first came on. I then left to head up another one of our sections for six years and then back to USTA in this role and again it's been 20 plus years but it seems like its 20 months or so, it's been going by really, really quick.

WT411: Did you always have a love for tennis?

D.A. Abrams: I learned how to play tennis through the National Junior Tennis & Learning Program, in Philadelphia and just to go back to how I think images are very, very important. I was watching TV, now I tell this story and I just want to make sure that I'm telling it correctly. I was introduced to tennis before I actually started to really play. My sister took me out to the courts, it wasn't a lot of fun because we were just hitting at the ball and we're both picking up balls, right? So it really wasn't until I'm at home, watching PBS, cause this was back in the day when tennis used to come on TV, just about every weekend and I see this African American guy playing that happened to be Arthur Ashe. Now he made it look so easy, that I thought oh, now if Arthur Ashe can do this, I can get there and do this too. Well that wasn't the case, but I did go out and it got me playing and it's kept me playing and that is the reason why, quite frankly, I'm in this role today. My love of tennis and just being able to, not just play tennis but use tennis as a vehicle to better myself and it's not just me, so many youngsters that were brought up in this local program in Philadelphia, which is a national program. There are over 600 such programs throughout the country touching about 300,000 kids or so every year, so it's a very powerful program.

WT411: Great story, but to get a little more personal, where's your hometown, where are you from and where did you go to school?

D.A. Abrams: I'm from Philadelphia; I grew up in North Philadelphia. Went to High School at a place called Strawberry Mansion, in a pretty tough neighborhood. Was fortunate enough to get a tennis scholarship to a small Division II state college by the name of Millersville, which is in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. So that worked out quite well for me but I think it even worked out better for my parents, because they didn't have to pay anything.

WT411: In terms of your transition to the USTA, after you found your love of tennis and you were playing it, how did you find your way to the organization?

D.A. Abrams; So that's a really good question. I grew up playing tennis. When I graduated from college I went to work as an accountant for a company called Control Data Corporation, out in the twin cities of St. Paul /Minneapolis. I'm not a millennial but I probably have traits of millennials because I just wasn't patient enough, quite frankly, I wanted to get back to tennis. Now had I stayed there, I probably wouldn't be here today but it was a blessing that I wasn't patient enough wanted to get back to tennis, went back to Philly worked for an organization called the Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis Center, and then got the opportunity to come work at the USTA.

WT411: In terms of those Human Assets, how important is it to broaden that diversity pool at the USTA and see those people get elevated, get promoted and move on?

D.A. Abrams: Well it's very, very important. In fact it's so important that we have a, what we like to call a D&I or Diversity & Inclusion scorecard and tennis participation is one of the markers and one of the measures, that's very important, our mission is to promote and develop the growth of tennis. We talked earlier about how Supplier Diversity, so that's one of the markers, but the other two markers, in my view, are very important and they both have to do with human assets. So what does that all mean, in terms of moving up to leadership positions. We're looking at everything but we're measuring who's leading these organizations, who are in management, who are the members of the C-Suites? And I will tell you, that now today if you look at where we are today as opposed to when I started, it's night and day. In fact when I started on the board of directors, volunteer board, there was one gentleman of color, by the name of Gary Lee, Asian American male from northern California. He was on for a little bit then he dropped off and then there was an African American male that came on the board, by the name of Dwight Mosley, first AA to make the board, he was on for a little bit unfortunately he passed away and then Mayor Dinkins came on to the board and he served for a while and then other folks of color started to serve as well, so it was no longer just one at a time. So fast forward to where we are today. Our first Vice President is a woman by the name of Katrina Adams; she is the first African American person to serve in that role. We're hoping one day that she will rise to the level of President and if that happens, she will be the first African American President of the USTA. Again, not a lot was happening in 1993 but we were trying, we're starting it but now you fast forward to today and it's looking pretty good there.

WT411: We know the goal is to reflect America and for African Americans the barriers remain economic, access to courts, training, instruction and equipment. What are you guys doing specifically to address those things?

D.A. Abrams: Well we do a number of things, let's first start with that NJTL program, what I failed to say earlier is that NJTL program is an outreach program it's really designed to attract youngsters that would not ordinarily play the sport and that's in 600 markets across the country. No. 2 is we have schools program, where we actually take tennis to where the kids are during the day and we partner with other organizations to provide after-school programs. So we are ensuring that we are going to reach African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, members of the LGBT community and others. In terms of the equipment, as of a few years ago we started youth-sizing the equipment. Think about that, when I started to play I was trying to play with the same racket as Arthur Ashe. Today, the balls are softer, they bounce higher, the equipment's a lot smaller, the nets are shorter so when you go out, you're pretty much going to have instant success. You may not be able to hit the ball like Serena Williams or Venus Williams but you will have instant success and it makes the game a lot of fun, which will keep you coming back.

WT411: Congratulations on the 2014 nomination for the DANDI Award, that's the Diversity and Inclusion Award, what are you doing with your initiatives to distinguish yourself from your competitor?

D.A. Abrams: Again, we have a D&I all hands on deck strategic plan and approach to really ensuring that diversity and inclusion is utilized as a strategy to grow tennis. We went through the six pillars earlier, what we didn't talk about is how we have those six pillars supported by recommended goals for each one of the pillars, in addition to that suggested tactics.

WT411: The JTLs (Junior Tennis Leagues), there are 6oo across the country, how influential is it that you have with those JTLs, in terms of delivering your programs and how do you interact with them to reach your goals?

D.A. Abrams: I mean this is not hip hop but in hip hop you would say "street cred", right? I think that's what the young people say. I grew up playing in JTL, I am an NJTL graduate, so I can go in and talk to folks, not just the administrators, but I can identify, if I can identify with the young folks, I can at least pull that card. I think it helps, we work very closely with that department, in fact we have a number of cross-functional teams, we're working very, very closely with that department to ensure that we're supplying them with what they need and they're helping us achieve our goals as well.

WT411: With regards to what's going on in the country today, obviously with Ferguson, here in New York City, it's got to be even more important the work that you guys are doing, do you try to relate any of that current events, that real time stuff to your trainers or your volunteers when your implementing your programs?

D.A. Abrams: For the most part, we do and we don't, if it comes up in a discussion and current events they do come up in discussions we are prepared to answer that and to answer those questions and to incorporate the learnings within the training. The big thing for us is to get across the idea that D&I is a strategy. It's a legitimate and very powerful strategy to help you achieve your already existing goals, whether they be USTA, whether they be tennis related, whether they be life skills, life goals, you need this in order to really do extremely well, not just well but extremely well.

WT411: I want to touch on Supplier Diversity, we talked about it earlier, how important is it to increase those ranks, to bring other suppliers into it and what is the USTA looking for, what kinds of companies is the USTA interested in?

D.A. Abrams: Anyone that can provide a value-add to us, we're very interested in learning more about them. We're very, very serious about Supplier Diversity. Two years ago we had 15% diverse spent, across the enterprise, which is very powerful, a lot of companies on average maybe about 6% or 7%, last year we went down slightly, we're still at 13.5%. We have an individual on our team that that's all they do, in fact the USTA is so serious about really utilizing Diversity & Inclusion to help us grow the sport, we have a department of six and that's pretty big for D&I. We're really walking the talk if you will and I'm very proud of what our leadership is doing both our President and the Board, as well as my boss, I'm a direct report to Gordon Smith, it's just couldn't be more supportive so it's a great place to be right now.

WT411: Are you familiar with MLBs Diversity Summit and do you take some best practices from that?

D.A. Abrams: Yes we steal a lot of those best practices. We're very familiar with that and we've been to all three, the last one was in New York. We're very familiar with what they do and steal a lot of what they do.

WT411: What's your most rewarding moment in your present position, for yourself individually and with your team?

D.A. Abrams: Well I have to go back, I started a long, long time ago and to know that we have an African American serving as the first Vice President of the USTA is extremely rewarding to me. It's not that I did that, but the fact that I work for an organization that has elevated someone of that stature to that position, means a great deal to me and I think it means a great deal to the organization and certainly to tennis. I think I said earlier that at the USTA, all directors and above must have a D&I related goal, it's not an option, they must have it. Now that's new in 2014 and trust me that's very big.

WT411: As a media company, is there any opportunity to include more media partners of color to get your message out, to be a little bit more of a voice in those communities you're trying to target?

D.A. Abrams: No, we would love that, I was a panelist along with Wendy Lewis of Major League Baseball and a fella from NASCAR at the National Association of Black Journalists in early August. I asked them, you got to ask for what you want, right? For what you're asking me the answer is yes, we would love for you and other companies such as yours to be supportive in getting the message out. We've got a lot of good stories to tell, from the grassroots, to what we're doing in youth tennis, to what we're doing with adult tennis, to what we're doing to get these youngsters that are on the cusp of being, maybe great players, we've got a lot of good stories to tell.

  • Published in Tennis

Taylor Townsend Makes US Open Debut against Her Idol, Serena Williams

It was 2007 when Taylor Townsend was sitting in the nosebleeds watching Serena and Venus Williams play a night match at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Fast-forward to 2014 where Townsend earned a huge seat upgrade, not simply in the front row, but on the court, as the opponent of the No. 1 seed, Serena Williams, at the same stadium for the opening-round match of her US Open debut.

When Townsend found out about the news she didn't believe it.

"I found out on Twitter," she said. "Okay, let me double-check. It was true. So then I was just immediately really excited. I just thought that it was a huge opportunity."

Townsend turned professional at the end of the 2012 season after achieving the world No. 1-ranking as a junior, the first American girl to do so in 30 years. She made her Grand Slam debut earlier this year at Roland Garros as a wild card and advanced to the third round.

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Townsend winning 2012 Australian Open girls’ singles title. Photo: Shuji Kajiyama/Associated Press

In lieu of the 18-year old Townsend's success, she looks up to Serena as she is one of the main reasons why Townsend is present in the tennis world.

"I mean, Serena's an African-American woman from Compton, California who won [now 18] Grand Slam titles. Like, who would have thought? Anything is possible. She's paved the way for me and not only African-American girls but girls in general, people in general, [she] just has changed the game of tennis. I think I've just learned from her story that anything is possible."

Their friendship blossomed last year at the Fed Cup in Delray Beach, Florida, when she talked to Serena and Venus Williams during a rain delay. Surprisingly they didn't talk about tennis, just casual girl-talk about hair and nails. Then later in Charleston, South Carolina, they chatted again for more than an hour and capped it off with selfies at the players' party.

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Taylor Townsend’s selfie with Serena and Venus Williams

Williams was just as excited to play Townsend for the opening draw match.

"We're really good friends. We always talk and always text each other. It's going to be a really tough match for me." Serena continued,"she's such a great player. [She's] extremely young. I have been able to see her play a little bit. She does everything really, really well."

Entering the match, they both won in the nail department. Townsend wore a gel manicure with deep, hot pink polish with blue tips. Williams rocked pastel pink nail polish with crystal, pink and black leopard-prints her middle nails. But only one could win the tennis match, which was Serena 6-3, 6-1 who moved on to win her first 1st Grand Slam title of 2014.

Taylor-Townsend-Power-Hitter Getty-Images

American professional tennis player, Taylor Townsend  Photo Credit: Getty Images

 

Serena-Williams Finger-Nails Collage Getty AP

Legendary American professional tennis player, Serena Williams, rocking pale pink manicure. Photo Credits: Getty Images (right) and AP (left)

Although Townsend lost the match she didn't let it get to her negatively. She was honored to face her idol and was all smiles.

"I just tried to go out on the court and really have a good time, embrace the moment, embrace the crowd and just use it. I did the best that I could."

The match helped put in perspective that she's doing all the right things - her serve can be a weapon and she can be a threat in the pro circuit with her style of play.
Serena also applauded Taylor and referred to her as the "Future of Tennis." Williams continued to speak positively of Townsend.

"She's a lefty. I always wanted to be lefty," she said smiling with envy. Why does Serena envy lefties? "That just in general puts you on a whole new level as a player. She's a very aggressive player. She comes to the net, she makes her shots. You don't really see that in tennis so much. You see players that, you know, stay aback and hug the baselines, as I do. But it's good, refreshing, and I think it's the future of tennis just by doing what she does."

Just how Townsend is inspired by Serena's story, Taylor is creating a story of her own for the current and future generations of tennis.

"I've always said that I wanted to use my tennis to inspire and help people. I want to continue [to be an inspiration and role model] as I progress in the pros and get better just because if we have these gifts and talents [and] we don't use it to help try to make a difference, then it really doesn't matter."

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Taylor Townsend with kids before the 2013 New Haven Open Tennis Tournament at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Photo Credit: Bill Weiss/New Haven Open

As Townsend said, "anything is possible." It took her seven years to earn her huge seat upgrade, which she saw as unfathomable at the time.

Townsend serves as a refreshing reminder that one can achieve their dreams with hard work and dedication.

  • Published in Tennis

Arthur Ashe Kids Day 2012 A Fun Day for All

What's The 411 TV captured some of the sights and sounds at the Arthur Ashe Kids Day 2012 held at the US National Tennis Center.

Arthur Ashe Kids Day offers something for everyone. There were opportunities to watch tennis pros practice; attend concerts with pop and R&B stars such as Carly Rae Jepsen and Mindless Behavior; and tennis clinics for the little ones. The video also shows that kids and adults alike, stood ready to get autographs from their favorite players.

Arthur Ashe Kids Day also celebrates the writing and artistic skills of young people connected to the National Junior Tennis and Learning network founded by Arthur Ashe. Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins was on hand to help celebrate the winners of the Arthur Ashe Essay and Art Contest. Mayor Dinkins also spoke about the genesis of the Arthur Ashe Kids Day and What's The 411 TV's Andrew Rosario captured it all.

Arthur Ashe was born on July 10, 1943 in Richmond, Virginia and is remembered for his excellence as a tennis player as well as his efforts to further social causes. He remains the only African American player ever to win the men's singles title at Wimbledon, the Australian Open or the US Open. His legacy continues to have a positive effect on our society.

  • Published in Tennis
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