Teliana Pereira: From poverty to tennis champion
What are you doing tonight? What’s your plan? For Pereira, playing tennis in the streets wasn’t a plan for everyday life. It was a plan for escape from poverty.
“I was in jail for 15 years,” Pereira says. “My mom used to take me to the courts. I was very good. I won a lot of tournaments. But, I had to give it up, because I lost.”
Then, 10 years ago, he met São Paulo Open tennis champion Nélson Oliveira de Carvalho.
“He was living in a slum, but he used to invite me. That’s how I started. I was so poor I could not go outside. But he made me believe that if I practiced hard, and trained, I could get to where I wanted to be. But I had to overcome an other problem: drugs. He was doing drugs. He used to buy from me, and I was buying from him. I got the idea to become a drug dealer and not a drug fighter. I think I did better that way. I had a plan.”
How is it you became a tennis champion?
“He has a lot of plans,” Pereira says. “He has a lot of ideas in his head. We played for seven hours. He would give me a few hits, and so I had to do it again. I would give him a couple of hits, but his hits were not good, and I had to give it up. I started thinking about my life. I realized I was in prison. I was not allowed to be with my mom, and I did not have money for me and my mom. I had to leave the prison at night, and to go to his house to play tennis. I was thinking, ‘I need to leave the ghetto.’ Then,