Opinion: Cinderella And Queenderella, By Mike Awoyinfa


Mike Awoyinfa

What a wonderful week of tennis it has been at the U.S. Open just ended in New York.  A week of new kids on the tennis block in a ceremony of torch passing from an old generation to a new generation of teenage queens slaughtering tennis amazons and female Goliaths on their way to announce themselves as the new Tsarinas of tennis.

I am referring to hitherto obscure tennis sensations starting with the Canadian Cinderella Leylah Fernandez who got me hooked to this year’s US Open after shockingly defeating defending champion Naomi Osaka and playing her way all through to the finals, beating top seed names and carrying the crowd along to the finals, there to meet another Cinderella: Emma Raducanu, the 18-year-old British phenomenon, the winner of the U.S. Open and the harvester of global attention and a wave of ‘Raducanu-mania’ which has hit the UK like a hurricane.  The chorus of adulation was led by the Queen of England praising the new Queen of tennis for her “remarkable achievement at such a young age.”  The British prime minister, Boris Johnson wrote: “What a sensational match!”

The British have every cause to celebrate.  Not since Virginia Wade won the Wimbledon in 1977 has any British woman won a Grand Slam.  Old Virginia Wade was there to watch her professional granddaughter Emma Raducanu triumph.

Raducanu with Fernandez
Raducanu with Fernandez

Here was the young lady who had barely completed her A-levels, who needed medical attention at Wimbledon, an outsider ranked 150th in the world, who miraculously surprised everyone, winning and winning, not losing a set in 10 matches, until she got to the finals where she routed Fernandez by 6-4, 6-3, in an unscripted battle of youths.  This indeed is the time of the youths—“asiko youths”—as Sina Peters, the afro-juju star sings in his sensational hit ACE: “For sure, the young shall grow.”

The U.S. Open witnessed the epic rise and triumphalism of youth.  We saw two young, female gladiators in a combat of tennis ecstasy, wowing the crowd with their amazing skills, with their tennis mastery, playing with precision, confidence and dexterity that belie their age.  This indeed is tennis of the digital age, if there is anything like that.  The old stars defeated by the two unseeded Cinderellas could not believe what hit them as they packed their bags and left in sorrow.  They were hoping that their experience and ranking would carry them through but they fell like a house of cards.  And it happened coincidentally on September 11, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the twin towers.  What a sad, apocalyptic irony!

From childhood, we loved the story of Cinderella, the fictional young, impoverished girl whose fortune suddenly changed in a remarkable way, ascending to the throne and being crowned a queen.  At the U.S. Opens, we witnessed the exploits of two tennis Cinderellas.  On Sky News, I watched a documentary of Emma as a young Cinderella with a tennis racquet dreaming to travel around the world and win the Grand Slam like her hero Andy Murray. “I know it will take a lot of hard work but hopefully, if I work on my game, I will be a champion one day,” she said prophetically.

Now, this is more than a dream-come-true for a Cinderella now the Queen of tennis.  There is no better sermon than this parable of a teenage girl who achieved her childhood dreams.  Today, she is richer by $2.5 million with more millions hopefully coming from endorsements and future prize money from a game that has brought her fame and fortune.

Equally bright are the prospects for Leylah Fernandez who says she feels like a Cinderella: “It kind of felt like I was Cinderella.  Everything’s coming in so fast.”

From these Cinderellas, you can find a common thread knitting them.  From Naomi Osaka who is of Japanese and Haitian parentage to Leyland Fernandez whose father is from Ecuador and mother a Filipino-Canadian to Emma Ranucanu whose mother is Chinese and father, a Romanian, tennis is a testimony to the power of diversity and inclusion.

Today, the daughters of mixed races are serving the ace and winning as the new queens of the tennis court.  If you are a Nigerian and you want a daughter who will be a future tennis queen, go and marry a Chinese woman or Japanese or Filipino.  Then she will give you a mulatto girl.  Then you will buy her a racquet.  Then you will introduce her to tennis.  With passion, training, hard work, determination, hunger to win and God on your side, your country Nigeria could produce a tennis queen of the future, with eyes like Osaka or Fernandez or even Raducanu—the girl whose name rhymes with Kanu.

And the dollars will be coming in millions for your daughter and you as her manager.  And you won’t bother yourself with the crashing and the crashing of Naira—our sick currency, heading for the I.C.U.

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