'When my grandparents came to England, tennis was completely new to them'
• 4 MINUTE READ
During Black History Month, we are using LTA channels as a platform for black voices within our sport, giving people the opportunity to share their stories of how they got involved and why they love tennis.
20-year-old Danielle Daley is at the start of her professional tennis career and describes her continued love for the game in spite of many setbacks, and how it has been passed down through the last two generations.
Tennis and my family
My family originate from Montserrat in the Caribbean. Myself and my mum weren’t born there but my grandparents were. In the late 1950s my grandparents – being part of the Windrush Generation - immigrated to England. Tennis wasn’t known on the small island of Montserrat, so when my grandparents came to England it was something completely new to them.
When they arrived, tennis wasn’t accessible to them to play, so instead they settled for watching on the black and white television! From there, their love for tennis grew and it was spread around to extended family and passed down through the next two generations. Tennis has been around me since I was small. Even weeks after I was born I watched Venus Williams win her first Wimbledon title against Lindsay Davenport from my mum’s arms.
My whole family seems to have been to Wimbledon at some point! Even during lockdown I remember watching a re-run of the Serena Williams v Elena Dementieva semi-final at Wimbledon in 2009, and my Gran mentioned to me that she and my aunt were watching that match and then went on to say that she has spoken to Richard Williams that same day too. It took me aback slightly, but it’s always good to know the illustrious company my Gran keeps!
It is pretty much non-stop tennis in my family. Even in lockdown when the re-runs on the TV had finished, everyone would watch me competing in virtual tennis and cheer me on as if I was actually playing! My family’s love for tennis has been a huge help to me in many ways. They’ve supported me entirely throughout my tennis career. The toughest period for me has been my shoulder injury which required surgery last year, and resulted in me not being able to compete or train for all of 2019. The whole year I was surrounded by the love and support of my family and I really don’t know where I would be without them.
How I got started
I started playing around the age of eight – it was my mum who introduced me to it. She played to a decent level when she was younger playing through school (just like my Gran) and then passing the baton to me. Since I began playing tennis, I think I always knew deep down that I wanted to be a professional, but I don’t think I really realised until it came to the talks that I had with career advisers at school. The meetings were kept very short – I’d just say ‘I want to be a tennis player’ and we’d be done! Knowing that I’m pursuing this as a career makes my mum and my grandparents very proud, which is all the motivation I need.
It was always a bit of a balancing act to juggle tennis with education, with training straight after I finished school but I never complained! It was nice to have the balance of both and because I’ve always been quite disciplined, I was always ready whether it was school or training. I completed my GCSEs and decided to homeschool myself for A Levels as that allowed me more time for tennis and meant I didn’t miss any lessons.
Even though I was injured for a lot of last year and this year has been disrupted, I’m pleased with my progress so far and am confident of building some momentum over the next few years. I’d say my career highlight so far has been playing at Wimbledon in the 2018 Junior Doubles. At that point, I was pretty much the only one out of my immediate family who hadn’t been, so it was ironic that the first time I went was as a player. It was an indescribable experience I’ll never forget – me and my partner Tanysha played on Court No.5 and had lots of people watching, which was pretty nerve wracking but I loved it and I know it made my family extremely proud to see me competing there.
Who inspires me
My family have been a great inspiration for me, especially my mum who has made a lot of sacrifices just to get to the starting line of my career. However, my grandparents inspire me because they have had to face and overcome many adversities as a result of being part of the Windrush Generation.They have instilled morals and values in me which inform everything that I do both on and off court, pushing me to fight for what I want and to do the right thing.
Professionally, the Williams sisters are my idols. Coming from a similar background to them, it has been incredible to watch them over the years and their success gives me hope that maybe one day I can rise to the top. More historically, people like Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson are huge inspirations too, and it’s really become clear from speaking to my grandparents that there are a lot of forgotten people of colour who played tennis.
It’s really inspirational for me, as a young black female, to learn more and more about these incredible athletes', and I will continue to do so throughout my career.
When my Grandparents first arrived in the UK they had many favourite players ranging from Maria Bueno and Billie Jean King to Arthur Ashe and Rosie Casals. However, it quickly became clear to them that at the time tennis was a ‘predominantly white sport’ with very few people of colour playing at the top level and even on public park courts.
So as the years have gone by, it has been really encouraging to see more players of colour coming through (still not as many as we would like to see) in the UK and globally. They do believe that more can be done to help ethnic minorities who may not have the chance to play tennis but hope that since the game has changed from the 1950s when they arrived, there is hope for the future and therefore, hope for me as their grand-daughter.
Personally, my main ambition is to get on to the WTA Tour, and not to stop when I get my first points. I’d love to keep pushing even further and hopefully break the top 100. But in the short term, my main priority is to stay injury-free and start building up some of the momentum I lost whilst out with injury.
Find out more
Read an update from LTA CEO Scott Lloyd, following his open letter in June outlining the need to do more on equality, our commitment to listen and then put in place the actions needed.