At 27, Jarmere Jenkins (Col ’13) had recently left a job in corporate sales when his older brother texted to ask if he wanted to try out for a new job—as hitting partner for Serena Williams.
The invitation didn’t come out of nowhere. Tennis runs in the Jenkins blood. Jarmere’s brother is the hitting partner for Venus Williams.
While a Wahoo, Jarmere had led the men’s team to its first national title (2013), and was recognized that same year as Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Player of the Year and ACC male athlete of the year.
After graduation, Jarmere spent four years on the professional tennis circuit, ranking in the top 200 in the world, before retiring in early 2017 because of the high price tag of pro tour life.
His older brother immediately thought of Jarmere when he learned that Serena was looking for a new hitting partner—this, in her return to pro tennis after giving birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia.
After his audition for Serena’s coach, Jarmere met Serena and they hit together. The two clicked, and Jarmere was hired in fall 2017.
Serena Williams already feels at home with UVA alumni, as her husband is Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian (Com ’05).
As of this writing, Williams is attempting to claim a record-tying 24th grand slam singles title at a major tournament—and Jarmere is helping her toward that dream.
“Jarmere can make every ball because he owns his shots,” says former UVA men’s tennis head coach Brian Boland. “He also has the intangibles to give someone like Serena a lot of different looks, depending on what she needs to prepare for the next opponent.”
Still, Jarmere admits, “I’m nervous every time I hit with her. It’s not a bad nervous—it’s that I want to do the perfect job, so she can continue to win and get back on top.”
Jarmere tries to wear UVA gear at every match and practice “to keep supporting the program and making my friends jealous,” he says, laughing