History Makers: The Williams Sisters

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Our latest article on the makers of history takes a look at the lives and careers of two of our sport’s most influential champions: Venus and Serena Williams.

With 62 Grand Slam titles between them as well as eight Olympic gold medals and a Billie Jean King Cup (formerly Fed Cup), they’ve won all that tennis has to offer, but that’s their impact around the campaign for social justice that will hold the sisters as two of the greatest of all time.

From Compton to Grand Slam

Let us return first to the beginning of their history; starting with Los Angeles, where Venus and Serena – the youngest of five sisters – first set foot on the public courts of East Compton Park.

Famously coached by their father Richard Williams, the sisters’ talent was evident from an early age. Playing on their home turf, the pair were spotted by professional player Tony Chesta who was blown away by their quality. This meeting marked the start of a historic journey to become two of football’s greatest champions.

In 1991, the Williams family made the decision to move to Palm Springs, Florida to enroll the two sisters in the famous Delray Beach Tennis Academy. Here, Venus and Serena took their training to a new level – they spent about “six hours a day, six days a week” in the field training and honing their skills.

But in 1995, Richard withdrew the sisters from the academy to become their full-time coach. During their time there, Venus and Serena had been the top 12U and 10U players in the country and at the time it seemed like a risky decision for two of the country’s most promising talents.

It definitely paid off – Venus turned pro at just 14 and beat her first top 20-ranked opponent a year later. Meanwhile, in 1997, Serena (16) became the lowest ranked player to defeat two top 10 stars in the world at the same tournament, the Ameritech Cup Chicago.

It was obvious that Venus and Serena were two of the brightest young talents to come into the game for quite some time, but no one could have predicted the era of domination that followed.

Conquer the world

Venus’ breakthrough came in 1997 when she made history at the US Open, becoming the first woman to reach the final in her debut since 1978 and the first unranked player to do so in almost 40. years.

On this occasion, she lost the final to Martina Hingis but will return to win the title twice – in 2000 and 2001, during a golden period of her career.

The two sisters had their first glimpse of Grand Slam glory in 1998 when they won all four mixed doubles titles in a single season – Venus teamed up with Justin Gimelstob to win the Australian and French Open, while Serena won Wimbledon and the US Open with Max Mirnyi.

That same year, they also played their first of many competitive matches against each other – Venus coming in the second round to Melbourne.

1999 marked the start of one of the most successful women’s doubles duos in history as the sisters joined forces to win the French and US Open in the same season. It would be the first of 14 doubles Grand Slam titles and three Olympic gold medals combined.

The turn of the new millennium saw the start of the era of Williams domination on the singles tour, particularly in relation to Wimbledon.

Venus won her first SW19 title in 2000, defeating Martina Hingis, Serena and then Lindsay Davenport – in a 35-game unbeaten streak, spread over six tournaments.

She defended the title against Justine Henin in 2001 and won her fourth Grand Slam singles title after beating her sister Serena in the US Open final, which was the first of nine major finals between the two.

The closest to the sisters, the best of rivals

The 2001 US Open final sparked the start of one of tennis’s greatest rivalries.

They became the first two players in history to play four consecutive Grand Slam singles finals, from the 2002 French Open to the 2003 Australian Open; with bragging rights to Serena who won all four titles to win the first of her two “Serena Slams”.

During this time, the two sisters dominated the WTA rankings at various times and were seemingly unstoppable to the outside world.

The injuries of the two sisters in the mid-2000s delayed them, but not for long. In 2008, Venus won her second victory over her sister in a major final at Wimbledon, but Serena returned the following year to win her first Grand Slam title in six years.

The two wouldn’t play against each other in a Grand Slam final for another eight years, until the 2017 Australian Open. By this point, Serena had broken records on left, right and back. center and sat on an incredible 22 major singles trophies. She beat Venus in straight sets to overtake Steffi Graff’s Grand Slam tally in the Open Era.

Here is an overview of their achievements:

Venus Williams

Serena williams

Singles titles

49

73

Grand Slam Singles Titles

7

23

Grand Slam doubles titles (including mixed doubles)

16

16

Olympic medals

4

4

Billie Jean King Cups

1

1

One-on-one registration

12

19

Impact across the world

Although their contributions to the world of tennis are almost unmatched, Venus and Serena have never shied away from addressing social issues outside of the game.

Both players were at the forefront of equal pay between men and women matches at Wimbledon and Roland Garros in 2007, with Venus leading a WTA and UNESCO campaign to promote equality between women and men. sexes in sport.

In a famous quote, the seven-time Grand Slam singles champion reacted to the news by saying: “Somewhere in the world a little girl dreams of holding a giant trophy in her hands and being seen as the equal of boys who have similar dreams. “

In recent years, both players have refused to remain silent on social injustice – especially around the Black Lives Matter movement.

From the murder of Philando Castile in 2016 to the recent death of George Floyd, the two sisters have spoken openly in the media and on his social media about racism and the systemic issues that affect them.

When it was suggested that Serena may have taken some time out of her tie-breaker fight to focus on her game and the 24th Grand Slam, the former World No.1 replied, “The day I will stop fighting for equality … will be the day I am in my grave.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Venus and Serena is how they take responsibility for themselves to stand up for what they believe in.

“The day I stop fighting for equality … will be the day I am in my grave.”

“Someone in my position can show women and people of color that we have a voice, because God knows I use mine,” Serena said in an interview with Vogue last year.

“I like standing up for people and supporting women. Be the voice that millions of people don’t have.

The Williams are brilliant role models for the next generation. Their pride in what makes them who they are and the influence they have made in society goes beyond anything they have achieved in sport.



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