To Vanessa and Amanda, the long and tiring trips to tennis courts between Kisumu, Nairobi and Stockholm are nothing but a good way to unwind as they bond with their parents, a Kenyan mother Yvonne Awuor and Swedish dad Sereno Dolci.

Yvonne is a Kenyan nurse based in Stockholm while her partner Sereno, a certified Uefa Grade B football coach and a physical trainer, is half Swedish, half Italian.  

If you don’t know him for his victories at the 1998 European International School League, Sereno is the son of the ‘Gandhi of Sicily’, Danilo Dolci, a two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. 

Danilo was a popular educator, a poet, a social activist and winner of the 1958 Lenin Peace Prize. 

He was awarded the prize for his non-violent campaign and strong opposition to the mafia movement in Sicily, Italy. He died in 1997.

History has a way of repeating itself, they say. 

Now, the work that was started by Slovenia-born Danilo before he  settled Italy,the tedious job of improving the lives of people around him, still continues. 

Only that this time round, it’s through his daughter-in-law, Yvonne, a Kenyan nurse who moved to Sweden at the tender age of seven, and his son Sereno.

Yvonne and Sereno have both embarked on a journey of shaping Kenya’s future tennis stars, just as American tennis coach Richard Williams did with her daughters, Serena and Venus.

Williams is credited for single handedly coaching Serena who would later win a record 23 Grand Slam singles in the open era and her sister despite the fact that he had no prior knowledge on coaching tennis. 

Williams learned tennis lessons from a man known as ‘Old Whisky’ after falling in love with the game watching Virginia Ruzici playing on television and decided that his daughters would be professional tennis players. 

But what would push a football coach who won the Swedish Junior League title with Sigtuna IF to in 2002 and the Luxemburg Junior Athletics Championships winner in 1,500m, 800m and 3,000m races back to class to acquire new knowledge about a sport that he has never played?

And why would a busy psychiatric nurse like Awuor dream of joining her husband in the tennis class in future? 

Hers is a story of resilience and tackling life head on. 

The coaching skills, she says, will supplement her husband’s work as a coach to their two adorable daughters who are currently in Kenya to learn more about the Kenyan culture even as the mum keeps a strict eye on their progress on the court

“I don’t want them to be spoilt. I want them to learn and appreciate life.

“I was good at sports while growing up,” Awuor, who lost her mother at a tender age, recalls. 

“I remember my PE (physical education) teacher used to encourage me to consider taking up sports but circumstances weren’t favourable at that time. I was forced to live with my aunt after I lost my mother and, unfortunately, I  didn’t get to play with other kids a lot thereafter.

“So I still have this suppressed talent in me and that’s why I want to give my kids the chance that I never had and see how far they can go.”

Just like the Williams sisters, Vanessa, 9, first had contact with tennis when she was four. 

The future stars enrolled for serious tennis classes 14 months ago and they have a religious schedule where they train for five days a week. 

To work on their reflexes, the girls take up swimming and soon they will be enrolled for gymnastic classes to help with mobility which is integral in tennis. 

But with a relatively complex background of a Kenyan mum, a father who is half Swedish and half Italian and a grandfather born in Slovenia before settling in Italy, one might wonder which nation the two girls would like to represent in future. 

“That, they will have to decide for themselves, but it would be my dream if they play for Kenya one day,” Awuor says with a big smile.

“I can’t imagine the pride that I will have if one day they represent this country at a major championship like the Olympics in Kenyan colours.” 

Currently Vanessa and Amanda are under the tutelage of the youngest of the Ymer brothers — Raphael. The Ymer brothers (Michael, Elias and Raphael) are some of the top rated Swedish tennis players. 

Interestingly, they are also immigrants from Ethiopia.

You can follow the Dolci sisters on Instagram at Systrarnadolci