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Southern California

Nearing retirement, Vania King has lofty goals on the horizon

Steve Pratt | February 01, 2021

Vania King’s sole focus in her pending tennis retirement will be giving back to the game that has given so much to her. 

 

The 31-year-old former Long Beach resident has started a non-profit called Serving Up Hope establishing tennis programming in one of 11 “slum” cities in poverty-stricken Kampala in the third-world African country of Uganda. 

 

King’s vision for Serving Up Hope is to change the lives of children around the world through tennis. Its mission is to “develop the social and physical skills of underprivileged children through tennis and educating communities in providing and maintaining a tennis program.” 

 

Even in these COVID pandemic times, King managed to spend four weeks in Kampala in October, returned to Florida for a week and then spent two and a half more weeks in Kampala in November launching the program. She teamed recently with former Chilean ATP player Hans Podlipnik, who she found is doing the exact same tennis program in a poor region of Santiago, Chile. 

 

“I still get updates five times a week, sometimes every day,” said King. “And I’m still very involved. It’s definitely different being here. I appreciate that they still reach out to me for guidance. I just love being over there and working with the kids. This was the first time starting my own thing. So, I wanted to be there to plant the seed and develop the roots.”

 

King, who attended the same high school as her idol Billie Jean King, has worked with WTA Charities throughout her career and will continue to work philanthropically, as well in “player engagement”, which she said helped her so much with mental health during her career. She was also nominated to serve on the USTA National Board and began her term Jan. 1 representing her home USTA Section in Southern California.  

 

“I’m just getting my feet on the ground and trying to learn as much as I can,” she said of her role on the Board. “Tennis has been such a big part of my life and given me so much so I would like to give back and continue to grow tennis in America. I hope I can make a difference.”

 

Unexpectedly, King is not quite done on the WTA Tour. Last spring, the two-time Grand Slam champion King had plans to officially retire, but she has decided to come back and end her career on her terms by playing two of her favorite tournaments before calling it quits. 

 

“I was supposed to retire after Charleston last year, but then COVID happened,” said King, who has been training in Florida without a coach.      “This year, the plan was to play Indian Wells, Miami and Charleston, but with Indian Wells now postponed, I’m hoping to end my career after Miami and Charleston.”

 

While Florida has always been her training base, King can envision a return to Southern California to be closer to family post-retirement. “I want to come back to L.A., but don’t have a place there. I have a house here and a backyard and space. I miss California and would love to come back. If it was anywhere in the States, I would come back to L.A. It’s home.”

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