With a career spanning more than 20 years, Serena Williams is one of the most prolific women in sports. Asked about her career, Williams once said, “Luck has nothing to do with it. I have spent countless hours on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come.”
TT’s emerging tennis stars Cameron Wong, Jordane Dookie and Jaeda-Lee Daniel-Joseph can relate to Williams’s sentiments. They saw their own countless hours of hard work on the tennis court pay off when they qualified for this year’s Copa COSAT tournament held in Bolivia from October 1 to 6. The triumphant tennis trio faced competitors among ten teams in Latin America and placed seventh. It was this country’s first time in the tournament.
Newsday Kids recently caught up with the trio for an interview during a training session at the tennis courts in Nelson Mandela Park, St Clair. The three 12-year-olds were in high spirits as they shared their love for tennis and their experiences of competing at a regional level.
Wong said, “At first I was a bit nervous to know that we were playing against all these big countries.”
The St Joseph's Convent, Port of Spain student said she did not feel nervous for long. “As I played, I found out that we were just as good.”
Schoolmate Dookie added, “It was a good experience playing against different opponents.” Teammate and Holy Name Convent student Daniel-Joseph confidently said, “Before I played my opponent I was nervous, but I realised that they weren’t that much better than me.”
Though it was the trio’s first time competing in Copa COSAT, it was not their first time competing outside of the country. The impressive trio represented TT in Antigua, St Lucia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico.
If you ask these athletes about the number of tournaments they have competed in, they will offer a puzzled look. They simply say it is too many to count. But they are clear about their love for tennis and their feelings while playing.
“I feel happy when I play,” said Wong.
Daniel-Joseph added, “I feel empowered and strong.”
For Dookie, the feeling is one of relief. “It is a place where I let out my stress from school,” she said. Dookie encourages children to participate in sports because it helps to relax and to destress from schoolwork.
Questioned about who inspires them, the three girls listed a string of influential female tennis players including Hsieh Su-wei, Simona Halep, Coco Gauff, Taylor Townsend, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams. They also mentioned their parents who push them to be their best.
They insist on maintaining their focus in school. “You have to balance it (tennis) with academics,” said Dookie. She said her favorite subjects are mathematics and geography. Wong said she loves Spanish. Daniel-Joseph has a passion for English, literature, sciences, geography and art. “I want to be a doctor and help save people’s lives,” she said.
Off the tennis court, Wong and Dookie say they hang out with friends from time to time. Daniel-Joseph said, “I like to stay home and read books. My favourite book is Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt.”
All three girls enjoy music, including dancehall and soca. They credit their success to the hard work of their parents and coaches.
“I want to thank TennisTT for this experience and being able to travel,” said Wong. Her teammates agreed.
PHOTOS COURTESY CALISTA MOHAMMED