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Inside-In Podcast: Vania King & The Gift Of Giving
The two-time Grand Slam doubles champion joins the Tennis Channel Inside-In Podcast to discuss her relationship with the game, and why helping others is her new passion.
Published Oct 07, 2022
WATCH: Vania King retired from tennis in 2021
After an athlete walks away from the game they love, a familiar refrain rings out: Now what?
They've given all of themselves to one endeavor, sacrificed everything for one specific task, and at an age when most adults are just starting to find their professional groove, these athletes have to find something else to do. It's a difficult adjustment for many, but not all.
Vania King played 15 years of professional tennis, hoisted two Grand Slam trophies, and developed a reputation for being one of the most fun-loving players on the WTA. And in her post-tennis career, she's making a real difference in the world. She joined the Tennis Channel Inside-In Podcast to explain what the game meant to her, how she balanced the hectic pro lifestyle, and why she's all-in on improving the world around her.
King's story begins as a California youth, the youngest of four that included a brother who excelled collegiately on the Duke tennis team. "I really looked up to him, but I was gleeful when people started referring to him as Vania King's brother and the roles got reversed," she noted with a smile.
King went to Long Beach Poly High School for a year before the tennis life took over. It was a generation prior and one where if you didn't make it early in your years, you weren't expected to make it at all. King arrived right on time with the 2006 title in Bangkok, the lone singles title in her career.
"Every time I got on the court I felt like I could beat whoever was in front of me, except Serena," King duly noted. "I wasn't able to be mentally consistent enough in singles, but I did take a lot of pride that I felt like I could beat whoever was in front of me."
While singles didn't completely go according to plan for King, her doubles career certainly exceeded expectations. In 2010 by chance and opportunity, she started a partnership with Yaroslava Shvedova that resulted in two Grand Slam doubles titles that year.
"I had to play with someone I got along with off-court," King stated in discussing their successful partnership. Their games complimented each other superbly as well, with Shvedova's power complementing the finesse and movement that King could provide.
Which is why it was only fitting that King's last professional match at the 2021 WTA event in Charleston took place with Shvedova by her side on-court.
King was just 32 when she retired. But unlike many athletes she was ready to attack her second career, having already created a foundation and showing dedication to helping others. "Serving Up Hope" helps children in impoverished nations better themselves through tennis and education, and it's something that blends King's passion for tennis with her desire to improve the next generation.
"It's ironic because I never wanted to identify as a tennis player because it was so stressful for me. But for them this is the place they go to relieve their stress, it's the safe space for them," the former pro noted. Serving Up Hope started helping kids in Uganda in 2019, and continues to grow in its outreach.
King also helped found the Asian American Pacific Islander Tennis Association, and works with both the USTA and WTA as an ambassador, with the sole purpose of growing the game. "There's a lot of ways I now realize that tennis has given me opportunities and provide meaning."
The podcast does a great job painting the picture of not just what Vania King has accomplished, but who she is and what she strives to stand for. There's also a peek behind the curtain at two of her favorite hobbies; singing and birdwatching (she loves birds of prey—her favorite is the Alaskan Fish Eagle). King's story can resonate with a wide-range of people, from dedicated young tennis players to people from non-traditional backgrounds looking for refuge and happiness in their lives.
With her tennis career in the rearview, King now gives herself to others. The sport and the world are so much better for it.