In this season of tennis discontent (the player fatigue, the fan ambivalence, the dirty mafiya money, the juniors gone wild!) it was nice to come across the story of Dejon Bivens, a freshman and tennis player at North Carolina State. It first aired on public radio around the time of the U.S. Open final, so I must have missed it while on Roger-watch.
It’s in some ways a familiar American fable – a young, poor, black kid is forced into the foster care system and uses sports to succeed against the odds. What makes this story atypical, of course, is that the sport’s tennis. And it’s not really a page out of the Williams sisters’ saga, either. Dejon fell in love with tennis on his own, avoiding basketball and football, two sports that his father encouraged him to pursue. He found true joy on the court, grunting and hitting a two handed forehand like Monica Seles (one of his heroes, along with Spiderman and Arthur Ashe.) It remains to be seen if tennis will bless him with Motorola endorsements and pro-tennis paychecks, but it’s already given him self-confidence, a loving mother, and a college education.
You also get the scoop on the everyday realities of USTA tennis – the difficulties of traveling to and paying for tournaments, the off-the-cuff interactions with officials and tennis parents, the way the sport has shed its elite, white-bred rep in some ways but not in others.
I hope you enjoy this entertaining and inspiring tennis story – something we could use more of this time of year!