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From the Tennis Courts to Hollywood: Boris Kodjoe joins Tennis.com Podcast with Kamau Murray
The TV star explains why tennis was his first passion, and why he'll always be connected to the game and it's future.
Published Jan 21, 2023
WATCH: Kodje has taken on a mentorship role with Frances Tiafoe, who has enjoyed an impressive start to the 2023 season.
Boris Kodjoe is no stranger to hard work. He's somebody who lives for the action, staying busy and engaged in too many projects and avenues to list. It's why he's become more successful with age, and why the world of Hollywood has embraced his work on the big scene for over two decades.
But before all the magazine covers and TV appearances, it was tennis that captured Kodjoe's heart. In a lengthy conversation with Kamau Murray on the Tennis.com Podcast, the towering presence explains how the game served as a vehicle for all the success that followed in his life, and what he's doing to pay it forward in return.
Kodjoe grew up in Germany, and tennis was literally in his blood. His father represented Ghana in the Davis Cup and passed the game onto his son, who worked tirelessly to the be the best he could be. Three hour train rides, hours upon hours on court, and complete dedication to the sport was the norm for Kodjoe.
After a standout junior career, the injury bug struck at the worst time in the form of a pre-existing back condition. Suddenly his pro dreams were crushed.
"It was a hard decision for me after dedicating your life to that point to that sport," Kodjoe reflected.
He had to slow his tennis career down, but was still able to make the most of it by playing college tennis for Virginia Commonwealth University.
"I had a great coach by the name of Paul Kostin, who was a Swede, who helped me with the cultural transition."
And how did Kodjoe become an actor? It started with acting classes on the recommendation of a friend who thought it would be a good way to better learn the English language.
Kodjoe's career continues to ascend on the big screen, but his love for tennis and the current crop of players remains bright. Several generations removed from his playing career, the German remains connected to the game and a strong resource for young players trying to handle the pressures that comes with the spotlight.
"I call it going under water, which is something Boris (Becker) used to say. He used to tell me that after a slam, if he won, he couldn't form a sentence for two weeks," Kodjoe said in reference to the physical and emotional toll that pro tennis takes on it's participants.
He's taken a mentorship role with American standout Frances Tiafoe, who has all of the gifts to have major success, if he can manage his emotions.
"That's something that the young players have to learn, that yes, it's ok to emote, but it's better to emote in a positive way, then to show your opponent that you're struggling."
Kodjoe's commitment to tennis goes much beyond the current professionals, as his family's foundation has taken a deep interest in giving opportunities to young African American kids who don't have the means or access to achieve their goals on the court. His "Love All Scholarship Program" aims to change that, and is doing exemplary work to do so.
"When you love a sport, you want the youth to be able to take advantage of some of the benefits that come with playing such a beautiful sport like tennis," Kodjoe stated. Working with Tennis Channel and the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy, the former player is providing both a tennis academy scholarship and the chance to study and live abroad for aspiring players.
"We just try to support some of the high school students that are out here on their journey to becoming a better tennis player."
Boris Kodjoe is known as the best tennis player in Hollywood, a title he gladly accepts but will admit is not the hardest to achieve. Kamau Murray engages with him on a delightful conversation about the the sport in it's current iteration, his connection with fellow countryman Boris Becker, and the abundance of good the leading man is doing off of the court. Hollywood may be his new canvas, but this sport still holds a firm place his heart. Tennis gave him everything, and now Boris Kodjoe is returning the favor in spades.