Serena Williams, a legendary tennis player, has revealed that she is leaving the game.
But that doesn’t mean that her impact will come to a close. Women and Black athletes will continue to benefit from her legacy for many years to come.
Williams has solidified her reputation as one of the greatest tennis players and professional athletes of all time. Since winning her first U.S. Open in 1999, she has captured 23 Grand Slam singles championships, and she has been the face of tennis around the world.
The Williams sisters — including her older sister Venue — paved the way for countless young Black athletes. Williams has been cited as an influence by tennis players including Naomi Osaka, Sloane Stephens, a Grand Slam champion, and Robin Montgomery, a teenage up-and-comer.
The game of tennis has been more than a sport for Black athletes.
Sierra Sandy, who plays for the FAMU tennis team, regards Serena as a role model. Sandy, a second-year criminal justice major from Woodbridge, Via., said she started playing tennis at age 5.
“During that time there wasn’t much tennis players that looked like me,” Sandy said. “Being able to turn on the TV and see someone that represents me and where I come from because it has helped with my self identity.”
Williams has endured numerous instances of racism throughout her career. Sandy has faced racism within her career as well.
“Before games parents would talk to me to try and distract me to not achieve my best potential,” Sandy said. “I even stopped talking to some players because of their parents’ intimidation against me.”
On the court, female players believe they can be authentic. They are capable of aggressive play and fist pumping.
Thanks to Serena and Venus Williams, they believe they can be both powerful and attractive. They are free to act, speak, and dress however way they like, and they can be proud of it all.
“Serena’s confident aspect of her on and off the court have truly inspired me to become the competitive tennis player that I am today,” Sandy said. “As she maintained her focus within the game has been a game changer for me because it helped me to stay focused and not worry about the negative criticism that comes with my color.”
Being Black and good was not always what people wanted to see, especially in the game of tennis. Serena’s journey and her a significant legacy did not take place without controversy and suffering. Serena occasionally displayed irritability after a difficult match or when she was losing, overshadowing her opponent’s impressive victories.