by GREG SIERING
Local teenage tennis players Briah and Taylor O’Neal have been making their marks on the court since they began playing at ages 4 and 3. A decade later, the two are not only playing tennis competitively, but they are also making an impact beyond the sport, exploring fashion and speaking out about equity in tennis.
The young entrepreneurs have turned their experiences into a children’s book, Serve It to Me, Too! (independently published). Written by Briah, 15, and illustrated by Taylor, 13, the book reflects the girls’ own tennis journeys, telling the story of young Deja, who picks up a racket after watching Venus and Serena Williams play on television, and starts playing with the support of her father. Like Taylor and Briah, Deja notices she is the only Black girl in tennis facilities and tournaments, and wonders if she belongs.
“We wanted kids to hear that it was okay, that we can all be part of this sport,” says Briah about the book’s messages of courage, hard work, and belonging—in tennis and beyond. “That message needs to target younger minds, to establish those habits and beliefs early.”
The book is the first in a planned trilogy, all following Deja’s—and Briah and Taylor’s— growth in tennis. Taylor hopes young tennis players take away a message she’s learned from her idols and experiences: “Your race isn’t talking on the tennis court. Your racket is doing the talking, not how other people perceive your skin color. Let your racket do the talking.”
In addition to their roles as authors, the sisters are brand ambassadors for the Justice clothing store and the United States Tennis Association, providing social media endorsements that combine their love of tennis and fashion. And in September they launched their own urban fashion store, Swagout Tennis.
The girls’ parents, Tina and Frank O’Neal, point out that their daughters’ dreams and hard work are their own, adding that neither of them play tennis themselves. “It’s not us, its them,” Frank says. “They are doing this on their own. I am their ‘Uber’ driver and cheerleader. That’s it.” Tina adds that the girls are also inspirations to their two younger brothers, “We are parents of four, but they are leading the way.”
Serve It To Me, Too! is available on Amazon.