One was called “frog legs”, the other “roach” – like a cockroach. But the mockery they endured as young girls never stood in their way to greatness.
Recently, “Miss Frog’s” legs got diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Sjögren’s syndrome, while the girl who loved being called “roach” – until she found out what roach meant – discovered she had blood clots in her lungs.
But these challenges saw them emerging stronger.
At the weekend, tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams spent their time sharing with aspiring tennis stars, inspiring them to reach for their dreams no matter what the circumstances.
In a country where tennis is viewed as a sport for the affluent, and where more money is channelled to male sports like soccer, rugby and cricket, the two sisters encouraged a group of girls to believe in themselves.
“If you put your mind to something, then anything can be achieved. I had blood clots in both my lungs, [but] looking at Venus [who suffers from a condition that causes fatigue and joint pains], it makes me wanna move on,” Olympic gold medallist Serena said.
Venus, who is just more than a year older than her, was her all-time toughest opponent, she said at a gala dinner held to auction off tennis gear they wore during some of their competitions.
Serena upstaged her big sister, with all her items taking an asking price much higher than Venus’s. Her signed book, My Life, Queen of the Court, was auctioned off at R27 000, while her sister’s Come To Win fetched only R14 000.
Also auctioned was the white outfit Serena wore when she bagged the 2012 Wimbledon title, by beating Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland. The dress was auctioned off at R40 000, while Venus’s US Open dress was auctioned off for R30 000.
A racket signed by both women fetched R17 000.
But before the glitzy affair at Montecasino in Fourways, the multi-Grand Slam champions, who are in the country as part of Breaking the Mould – a campaign aimed at honouring women who have achieved success against all odds – conducted coaching clinics for about 50 children, aged be-tween eight and 16, at the Arthur Ashe Academy in Soweto.
Mmabatho Makgale, a Grade 7 pupil at Thutokgang Junior School, has been described as “the next Serena”, and played in a doubles match with the sisters.