Watching Venus Williams stride confidently onto centre court in front of a worldwide audience of 150 million for the Wimbledon 2008 women's final last month, one couldn't help but look back nostalgically to 1998 when a lanky, awkward 17-year-old black girl with white beaded braids and braces made her debut on the court. Or when her younger sister followed suit two years later. Who could have imagined that 10 years on, they would become the most prolific female players of the last decade? Their father certainly could.
Richard Williams ostentatiously announced in 1996 that one day his two daughters, Venus and Serena, would play each other in a Wimbledon final. At the time, his prediction was dismissed by tennis commentators as wishful bombast from a delusional father-besides, were such an historic event to take place, it certainly would not be two black sisters playing each other. After all, tennis has always been a notoriously racially exclusioned sport. The only other black woman to have ever won a tennis championship was Althea Gibson, and that was 50 years ago.
These odds did not deter Richard Williams who was determined to provide a future for his five daughters outside of the drug and gang related world of Compton, California. He set out to make a sports star out of one of his five daughters. On those rundown public tennis courts of Compton, he quickly noticed that his two youngest daughters, Venus and Serena, seemed to have a natural talent for the game. The dream had begun.
Since their pro-tennis debut in 1994, the accomplishments of these two phenomenal women have been astounding at the very least. Big sister Venus has to date won seven grand slam titles, including five Wimbledon finals, seven women's doubles (with Serena), two mixed doubles titles and two Olympic gold medals. Young sister Serena has won eight grand slam titles, seven women's doubles, and two mixed doubles. At Wimbledon this year, Venus served at a world record speed of l26mph.
These accomplishments pale in comparison to what the sisters have done for the game of tennis as a whole. They have raised the bar and breathed new life into the sport. The game has been turned on its head. They have dragged it out of its lily-white, upper-class domain into a more culturally diverse and modern world. As Tiger Woods has done for golf, they have raised the profile of the game, bringing with them a whole new audience. With this has...