Column: I am not just one thing


Photo credit: Dani Fenster

During the 2021 U.S. Open, 18 year old Emma Raducanu from Britain played fiercely. Through sheer determination and will, she was able to make it to the final and ultimately bring home her first Grand Slam win.

By Sydney Frank, Columnist

The first time I picked up a tennis racket, I was 6 years old. It started out with weekly lessons where my coach gave the tennis balls the nickname “Fred.” I was told to “dance” with Fred throughout each session. I know, funny right?

This year was the 141st U.S. Open Tennis Championship and the last tournament of this year. During quarantine, I really focused on my own tennis game, and improving my skills, so I was extremely excited to watch the pros play. The two finalists for women’s singles were Emma Raducanu (Britain) and Leylah Fernandez (Canada).

Can you believe that they are only 18 and 19 years old? I still can’t.

Their match was also the first Grand Slam final between two teenagers since the 1999 U.S. Open between Serena Williams and Martina Hingis. The significance of their match wasn’t only because of their age, though. Their match was the first men’s or women’s major final in the Open Era (since 1968) between two unseeded players. This means that they were both not ranked as one of the best players in the sport, prior to the tournament. It is so unbelievable and awesome to see two incredibly hardworking and strong teenagers do so well.

Watching Raducanu and Fernandez’s advancement into the finals of the U.S. Open this year was especially meaningful to me. To see two half-Asian women battling it out on the court is so inspiring and makes me want to work just as hard to reach my own goals. They are only two to three years older than me. If they can make it to the U.S. Open finals, surely I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.

These women have also prompted me to think about what an impact having two half-Asian women in the finals has on tennis as a sport. It is no secret that tennis has pretty much been a “white sport” with its reputation of elite country clubs and spotless white tennis attire. Witnessing the representation of Raducanu and Fernandez is slowly starting to break down that stereotype and change the sport for the better.

I can also relate to how Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez are mixed —  Raducanu being half Chinese and half Romanian, while Fernandez is half Filipino Canadian, and half Ecuadorian. Yet despite this, they chose to represent their home countries in the U.S. Open rather than their native ones. I made myself consider this. I am a Korean American, and if I had to play in the U.S. Open, I would most likely represent the U.S. This is not a bad thing of course; in fact, it is what most people would do. You would play for the home that makes you most comfortable. It is no one’s business but your own to decide who you are and what you stand for.

I guess all of those lessons when I was younger paid off because I have continued ever since, playing every weekend with either my coach or my family. Whether I’m watching an intense match between Federer and Nadal or totally annihilating my Dad in a match, tennis has been a part of my life ever since I can remember. I have learned so much about myself from this sport, and I can confidently say that my attitude towards challenges and trying new things has definitely shifted.

Today, we are so caught up in identity and the idea of where we belong, that we’ve lost track of what actually matters. Humans are humans. We prioritize people’s race, sex, gender and religion over everything. It has become so ingrained in society to judge other people for who they are, and it is not okay. We need to take a step back and realize the consequences of our actions and words.

It is our job as racially mixed people — with different perspectives and hundreds of stories to tell — to bring awareness to all of the double standards against non-white people.

I am not just one thing. Raducanu is not just one thing. Fernandez is not just one thing. We are not just one thing.