Americans Venus and Serena Williams continue to dominate tennis well into their 30s, outlasting most of the rivals who joined them on the women’s tour in the 1990s.
Serena Williams, 35, just won her 23rd Grand Slam singles title in Australia in January, defeating her older sister in a nail-biting final in one of the four most important annual tennis tournaments.
Her older sister, Venus, 36, has won seven Grand Slam singles titles in her 23-year professional career. Together, the sisters are a champion doubles team with three Olympic gold medals and 14 Grand Slam titles.
As impressive as all those championships are for these elite female athletes, both also have made their mark off the tennis courts, inspiring girls, especially girls of color, to persevere and to dream big, just like they did.
The sisters worked hard for their success. They grew up learning tennis from their father, Richard Williams, on public courts in Compton, California — a far cry from the exclusive country clubs that are typically associated with tennis.
The Williams sisters recently gave back to their hometown with the creation of the Yetunde Price Resource Center in Compton for people affected by violence.
Serena Williams has helped build schools in Kenya, Uganda and Jamaica through her Serena Williams Fund. She’s also served as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and supported its mission to offer a quality education to the most vulnerable children. Both have supported AIDS patients by raising money for the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
The sisters aren’t afraid of taking a stand. In 2007, Venus Williams played a key role in securing equal pay for women at Wimbledon’s grass court tournament in London. Serena Williams boycotted a South Carolina tournament because the Confederate flag flew over the statehouse dome at that time.
Over the years, the sisters have battled racism, sexism, health issues and heartache. Through it all, they had each other, used their setbacks to fuel their success and made it their personal mission to uplift women.
“It is my hope that my story, and yours, will inspire all young women out there to push for greatness and follow their dreams with steadfast resilience,” Serena Williams wrote in an open letter to The Guardian in November 2016. “We must continue to dream big, and in doing so, we empower the next generation of women to be just as bold in their pursuits.”
This article was written by freelance writer Lenore T. Adkins.