Stephenson’s inaugural major win also solidified and verified her coach Kamau Murray’s decision to cease a steady career in corporate pharmaceutical work at Novo Nordisk Inc. to take his part-time hustle of coaching tennis and make it a full-time grind.
Murray, now 36, graduate of Florida A&M University didn’t just end up coaching professionally, he helped a young African-American tennis prodigy fulfill her potential and reach the pinnacle by winning her first U.S. Open title in a sport that – Williams Sisters aside – doesn’t produce many champions of color.
Murray’s story fits into the chapters of Sloane Stephens’ book of black girl magic perfectly. There’s a cultural connection and mutual understanding between the two that can only be found in minorities striving to be champions in a traditionally white-dominated sport.
— Marlon A. Walker (@marlonawalker) September 9, 2017
Murray first met Stephens while coaching her doubles partner, Taylor Townsend. At that point, Stephens had flirted with major victories, defeated both Williams Sisters in matches and was stuck in a rut, unable to get over that first majors hump.
Murray started coaching Stephens in November 2015. When Stephens suffered a stress fracture in her right foot that ended her 2016 season and required surgery, Murray was there to lend support, keep her mentally sharp and provide solid mentorship.
“I’m extremely proud,” Murray said about Stephens. “She’s earned it. She’s put in a lot of hard work. She’s been open to guidance and direction.”
Since Stephen’s monumental win and phat payday, the dynamic duo are gaining in celebrity and notoriety. The world is eager to find out more about the new face of American women’s tennis and her coach, probably the first from an HBCU to guide an African-American prospect to one of tennis’ greatest achievements.
Murray would have never found his Mona Lisa in Stephens if he didn’t throw his inhibitions to the wind and take a leap of faith by coaching full-time. It was a risk he was willing to endure and now that he is an accomplished coach, Murray still utilizes his intelligence and the business skills he acquired in college, off the courts.
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