It is very seldom that people who share the same last name get involved in the same sport or activity, so whenever they do and later on become famous, their notoriety is even larger. Take the Olsen twins, for instance, or the Kardashians or even the Jackson 5, for that matter. Venus and Serena Williams can be included in that group too. The Williams women are the one pair that we believe has made an important difference, paving the way for women and black people in a sport with little diversity.
Considering that there are barely any non-white players in the top charts of tennis rankings, the fact that Serena and Venus have been among the top ten in the Women’s Tennis Association ranking for quite some time now is something that cannot be overlooked. Both of them have spoken out about the many obstacles that they have had to face while climbing up in their careers, in a misogynist and many times racist context. This alone makes them heroines, as they have been able to stand out in a highly competitive world and in a male-dominated sport, being the only two African-Americans to rise among the world’s best tennis players. As a matter of fact, they have risen so high that on two occasions the women actually had to play against each other in the final match of a grand slam. The first one was in 1998 in Australia where Venus was victorious. In January 2017, Venus and Serena played against each other at the same tournament and this time it was Serena who took home the trophy, also winning her 23rd slam title. We might expect to see Venus at the upcoming U.S. Open in New York, but Serena, who is currently out on leave, will probably not be in attendance.
Between the two of them, they hold eight Olympic medals. In 2002, Venus, the older of the two, became the first African-American female player to win the number one title in the WTA rankings. Fifteen years later, Serena is currently at number one and many consider her the greatest female tennis player of all time. Both Venus and Serena have had to face criticism, sometimes even from fellow players like the Swiss star Martina Hingis. But despite all of this, both women follow the idea that they don’t just play for themselves. Like Serena once said, “represent something much greater than me,” which has helped them both to persevere, opening a door that was once closed to other female and non-white players.
In many ways, they are responsible for having brought a lot of attention to women’s tennis, raising the stakes and projecting the image of a strong female player ready to overcome setbacks and fight the double standards of the world we live in. In this sense, their triumphs have an immeasurable value, especially in a time in which role models like them are needed to motivate the younger generations and help them believe that they too can reach their goals. Hopefully, we will continue to enjoy them both play on the court for many years to come, but when they retire, there will surely be other great African-American female tennis players to look up to, as the Williams women have established a much-needed spot for up-and-coming diverse players in this formerly exclusive sport.