Bernadette “Bernie” David-Yerumo talks fashion, strategy and longevity.
At 73, Bernadette “Bernie” David-Yerumo is a snazzily dressed tennis powerhouse. She is a proud Durham-native who has been fueled by her competitive spirit since childhood.
She began playing tennis in her mid-teens and has stuck with the sport ever since. Today, David-Yerumo enjoys competing in the annual Durham Senior Games where she consistently wins a multitude of gold and silver medals in various events, including tennis, shot put, badminton and many others. She feels that her participation in tennis tournaments keeps her young and fulfilled.
She places as much focus on her mental game as her physical game, practicing, observing and adapting, on and off of the court.
“I like the fact that I’m using everything: my brain, my eyes, all of my body, down to my toes,” David-Yerumo said.
Before match play, David-Yerumo trusts her personal coach to help her effectively prepare. She supplements her training methods with physical therapy and a clean diet.
“Depending on if I’m playing mixed doubles, women's doubles, or singles, [my coach] gives me drills for each event,” David-Yerumo said.
David-Yerumo is tough to beat for a number of reasons. She’s quick to make adjustments to account for the strengths and weaknesses unique to her opponent(s). She tries to always stay one step ahead, in anticipation of the next possible move. And she ultimately leaves everything on the court, putting in full effort until the last point is played.
“Each opponent is different. I don’t play everybody the same way,” David-Yerumo said. “I enjoy figuring the opponent out and figuring out the game.”
“On the court...the longer I play, the more I hope I can figure out the puzzle,” David-Yerumo said.
When asked about specific strategy, David-Yerumo was a little more cryptic.
“Oh dear, I wouldn’t ever tell [my strategy],” she said.
Over the course of her tennis journey, David-Yerumo has made mistakes alongside her triumphs, and has subsequently learned lessons.
“The worst match I ever had was with a young lady I played who had a lot of people there to watch her play. I was beating her terribly...I felt sorry for her so I gave her two games,” David-Yerumo said.
“And it was 200 degrees out there...so she ended up beating me from the stamina,” she said.
David-Yerumo went on to explain that she no longer lets emotions hinder her victories.
“I’ve never done that again. If I beat you, I just beat you. I don’t give any more games to anyone. That was a hard lesson to learn,” David-Yerumo said.
After a match, David-Yerumo takes time to reflect on her game play.
“Psychically, I feel drained. Mentally, I feel fulfilled,” David-Yerumo said.
Whether she wins or loses, David-Yerumo does not let potential hurdles influence her mindset.
“I never really look at something as a challenge; I’m very easy going, happy-go-lucky, and I just don’t ever let an obstacle get in my way,” David-Yerumo said.
David-Yerumo has received guidance and inspiration, on and off of the court, from a few standout individuals in her life.
“My sister is one role model to me. She was the first African-American female senator in the history of North Carolina,” David-Yerumo said. “We also worked together for 13 years before she passed.”
In regards to tennis, David-Yerumo views the late Althea Gibson, a trailblazing African-American women’s tennis player, as another role model.
David-Yerumo insists that a major contributor to her confidence during match play is her chic fashion sense.
“I love the outfits...I used to make a lot of my tennis clothes when I was younger,” she said.
“I still bedazzle just about everything I wear. I bedazzle my shoes, I bedazzle my clothes, my jackets. I wear a lot of sequins on the court,” David-Yerumo said.
When asked if she had any advice to offer to beginner tennis players, David-Yerumo extended encouraging words.
“Since tennis is a lifelong sport, whenever you start to play, invest in getting someone to teach you the correct way to play the sport so that you will be a successful tennis player,” David-Yerumo said.
Throughout her time spent in devotion to the sport, David-Yerumo gained a deep appreciation for the way in which tennis helps maintain youth.
“It keeps my entire body engaged and helps to keep me moving...because when you stop moving, you die,” David-Yerumo said.
“I feel that if I can move, and I am happy, I will have longevity.”