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Richman Mahlangu was born into a black township near Durban, South Africa during an era of apartheid. During this time blacks were severely discriminated against for the color of their skin and treated as second-class citizens to put it mildly. As a young boy Richman was doing the best he could to help his mother and raise a family of five after the loss of his father at age five. One day, as if by design, Richman discovered a broken tennis racket and began practicing the game of tennis with a wall and a couple of old balls, a game that would forever impact his life.

This caught the eye of Tim Gray, a local tennis professional that soon decided to teach Richman in exchange for his hard work on the court and at the tennis club. A few years down the road, Richman’s tennis got the attention of then head UNLV men’s tennis coach, Craig Whitcher, who gave the young South African a life changing opportunity: a scholarship to play tennis in America. From this day forward, Richman made the most of his life changing opportunity. "In America you have an amazing educational system, and it is your hard work, not the color of your skin, that determines what you can do," explained Richman Mahlangu. "Tennis allowed me the chance to educate myself so I could give my family and I the best possible chance."

Since then, Richman has used his passion and appreciation to graduate from college and acquire a masters degree in education. However, instead of using his new degrees to pursue the much sought after ?American Dream? of wealth and fame, he sought out with his wife Eliane to start a family. This, above all else, is what they cherished. "We put our own careers aside to make sure our boys had the best education and opportunities with music and sports," said Richman. "We knew tennis, music and education could help open doors for them that otherwise may be closed."

Those doors opened time and time again. First for violin, then for their amazing grades, and eventually for their talents on the tennis court. Tennis, somehow, continued to make a significant dent in the Mahlangu tradition. The boys started traveling the country, competing at the highest levels. However, Eliane would never allow such travels to get in the way of their education. "It was often a battle since we both wanted the best education for our children. We both knew music and tennis would open the doors for that and trying to find the right balance between them was difficult," said Eliane.

Eliane was the driving force behind the children’s success in music and the classroom, something that made the Ivy Leagues a possibility. Richie, of course, put aside his own ambitions to keep teaching tennis so he could help groom his boys into young men and accomplished athletes on the court. One could always find him on the court with his boys for two to three hour each day.

This commitment to academic, artistic, and athletic excellence was a long road, filled with adversity, tears, arguments, fights, make-ups, good times, exhilaration, victory, and defeat. All along the way people came out to help. The Marty Hennessy Jr. Tennis Foundation and USTA was proud to lend financial assistance to this family that was doing all it could to be its best. Countless friends and tennis community colleagues encouraged and did all they could to help Team Mahlangu because they all saw something special both in the children and the parents. In the end their investment paid off. Both boys are considered among the top student-athletes in the country. Nicholas was just admitted to Harvard University and will play for their division one tennis team. ?I am still shocked and in disbelief that I was able to get into one of the nation’s top universities. Never in my wildest dream would I have thought it would be possible for me to achieve something like this,? said Nicholas when asked how he felt about his recent success. Yannik, who is just a year behind him, is being recruited by similar schools. Beyond tennis, both boys have the kindness and determination of their immigrant parents who have done nothing but the best for them since they were born.

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