In a sport that was intentionally beyond limits to Black people, Serena Williams “took action on her own terms and rocketed herself to greatness.” It’s hard to say which is more potent: Serena Williams’ cannon serves or the powerful feelings she elicits in viewers, especially those who have been labeled as tennis outsiders when they watch such hits.
We asked readers to submit their personal experiences watching Venus Williams play and to explain the emotions she generated because the U.S. Open is most likely going to be her final professional match. Many fans spoke in the comments about their friendships with Venus and Serena and how the sisters inspired them to watch matches, go to tournaments, and even start playing tennis.
This bond was especially strong among Serena Williams’ Black supporters, who referred to her as “family,” “our sister,” and “our Wonder Woman.”
She has approximately 25 years of experience competing at the highest level in tennis. But her legacy extends far beyond what she accomplished off-camera. Additionally, she attracts tennis fans and the awe she inspired in those who saw her perform.
My friends and I told you that even now when you wore beads in your hair as a child, you couldn’t tell us anything. Our young person appeared to be being carried by them to the courtroom.
Serena gave Black women the freedom to defy social expectations and enter spaces where they are not welcome. She wore her hairstyle. She brought her body’s structure and physical make-up. Being a Black woman, you get the orders to be quiet all the time. Everybody could guess that she looked angry. She showed anger.
Serena taught me that being who I am is sufficient. We are adequate. She feels like the older sibling. We then came to her aid, saying, “We’re here for you.”
Rachel: In many respects, I feel as though Serena and I both went through the same stages of life at the same time as we grew up. Rachel said she felt a strong, immediate connection to her. I remember watching her five-part documentary while I was pregnant with John, my second child, and watching her go through the full birthing process.
I felt like I wasn’t getting the care I needed and that my doctors weren’t paying attention to me, so I was thinking about that a lot when I was carrying him. When my pregnancy was seven months along, I altered my methods. We had a small incident during the birth of my son, but as a result, I felt much safer, therefore I’m glad I did. Knowing her story and how she had to stand up for herself even in the face of doctors is sufficient. I also felt like I needed to speak out for myself similarly because of my experience giving birth.
I’ve attended the U.S. Open for thirty years. Being a Black woman, witnessing her victory had a profound impact on me. In my early years, I was one of the few Black fans. Many of my black college mates have now left. In the 1990s, such was not the case.
Because Serena is proudly Black, she speaks to me. She achieved greatness by acting independently and pushing herself forward in a sport that Black people perceived as being excluded by purpose. She is the only athlete I have as a hero, and she will always be the best.
Her victory at the 2007 Australian Open, when she was roundly attacked for her size and devotion to the game, makes me cry. She delivered a speech in honor of her late sister Yetunde Price after winning. I revisit that finale on days when I’m struggling.
Her commitment to the sport has always been questioned due to her race, appearance, gender, and motherhood, but she has always stood up. Since I’ve known Serena (and Venus) since I was eight years old, and now that I’m 32, seeing them participate in a predominantly white-lily sport was incredibly reassuring. It’s incredible to watch how, over the past ten years, she has finally come to be regarded as the icon and treasure that she is.
My heart was happy as I saw Serena win the 1999 U.S. Open on television with beads flying. Tennis commentators at the time were dismissive of Venus and Serena. They were outsiders. They lacked tennis knowledge, only “might.” It took those pundits a while to understand that each was a prodigy who had elevated women’s tennis.
The incredible pressure Serena dealt with on the merciless world stage is reminiscent of the strain I had throughout my law career.
I went to Wimbledon by myself in 2019. I went to both the Miami and Cincinnati Opens. Two regular looks and vibes I get are “you don’t belong here” and “why are you here?” “Don’t be here,” is a command by an invisible yet strong entity.
Being able to see Serena’s courage and resolution, as well as those of her sister, her father, her mother, and other family members, inspired me. It is a family issue because everyone must participate.
Due to the fact that it was my birthday on Sunday and I had been longing to see Serena, my daughter Kayla surprised me. I was delighted because we witnessed her practicing yesterday.
Kayla: She’s so nice. We love her because of her parenthood, her support of pregnant Black women, and the simple act of witnessing her live a regular life. Our Wonder Woman, she is.
When Serena returned from maternity leave in the famed cat costume at the French Open in 2018, I was there. As loudly as I could, I yelled “Go, Mama!” as she scored each goal. The fact that Serena has been at the top of her game her whole life prevents my daughter Camille, who is now 11 years old, from really appreciating how incredible her accomplishments are.
I have always followed the Black athletes, from Arthur Ashe to Zina Garrison. It felt like a vicarious, cathartic victory to watch Venus and Serena master the game and dominate.
The Williams sisters were my entry point into tennis because I graduated from high school the same year Serena won her first Grand Slam championship. They were responsible for introducing a young, LGBT child to tennis.
I attended every U.S. Open from 2012 to the present, with the exception of 2020, of course. There is a wonderful atmosphere here when Venus and Serena play. Then, in the years when they are absent, something just feels… different.
People in my hometown question me, “Why do you still support them? They are defeated. Additionally, “Why is she still playing?” Whether she loses in the first round or not doesn’t really matter to me. This is more of a farewell. I’m hoping she plays someone who can beat her if she’s not playing well. And once she finishes playing, I hope she continues to play tennis. Like when Steffi Graf retired, I have a hunch we might never see her at another tennis match. That, I hope, won’t be the case.
She won the U.S. Open finals in 2012, 2013, and 2014, and my two closest friends and I gasped in tandem when she came within one swing volley of a calendar slam in 2015. However, witnessing her destroy the field at the 2012 Olympics was my most exhilarating moment. It was a great performance.
We acknowledge that my best friends and I support Serena as if she were OUR sister. We like her power, and we share every bit of her frustration on the court. She has empowered other women to expect perfection of themselves because she is confident enough in her excellence to do so.
Bukunmi: Our two elder sisters play together as well. Because of Serena and Venus, my father enrolled us all in tennis. They all began playing tennis at an early age, and we followed suit as soon as we could walk. I first started watching Serena Williams when I was three years old, and I’m still watching her now that I’m seventeen.
She never quits. Because she may be loud, I think it’s crucial to be able to motivate yourself while playing tennis and maintain your composure.
Morayo: The Serena and [Naomi] Osaka match really brought home to me how modest Serena Williams truly was because, despite the backing of the fans, she ultimately lost and continued to stand by Osaka in that crucial time. Those were nice. That one match revealed a lot about the tennis community.
I would definitely try to give her a hug or something if I saw her. I would tell her how much I value everything she has accomplished and what a wonderful person she has been.
To succeed in America, the Black community has a saying that goes, “You need to be twice as excellent.” Therefore, it is an occasion for everyone to rejoice when one of us prys opens the gates and passes through the obstacle course. Over the course of the past 20 years, we have rejoiced with Venus and Serena and have shaken our fists at our televisions over the cultural insults they have given rise to insults to Compton, Richard Williams’ unwavering confidence, their braids, their bodies, their (unfeminine) power game, their assertiveness (as if this were new to tennis), and the flimsily disguising racism of the TV commentators. Serena and Venus have always responded that they were more than “twice as good” to any insult.
When I attended my first U.S. Open in 2013, my mother and I took the Amtrak, and it began to rain while we were traveling. As soon as we entered the gates, the match cancellation announcement came over the loudspeaker. I was furiously angry. I had no notion that if a match is postponed, you are not entitled to a refund because I had never attended a tennis tournament. We came specifically to see Serena, so I didn’t want to see any other players. Fortunately, my mother was able to take another day off work, so we bought tickets for her second-round match on the path to that year’s tournament victory.
Serena Williams is a wonderful example of someone who overcomes all challenges. To me, it demonstrates that if Black people are allowed access, we will demonstrate and demonstrate that we belong. Despite being the best athlete, she did not receive flowers until recently since she is a Black lady.
Sonia: Before the Williams sisters, I was a fan of tennis, but after they started playing, my interest grew. I’m in for the game whenever they’re participating. I never move from my TV.
Abigail: She shouts and applauds. I occasionally worry that anything is amiss when I hear her in the bedroom. What’s wrong, what’s wrong, I ask. “No, it’s just the game,” she responds. As a result of Serena, I’m joyful.
Sonia: I can see both of us. Do you realize? Venus and Serena Williams are not in it for the money. They gave it their all. I support them because they gave it everything they had. I’ll continue to attend the Open even after they depart, though. I enjoy Coco and Naomi Osaka (Gauff). Serena-like go-for-it-ness also exists in Coco.
Serena Williams is practicing in Court 14 if you want to watch her, the ticket taker at the 2015 Western & Southern Open informed me as I entered. I rushed over and waited by the court’s perimeter chain-link fence to watch her practice and be instructed by Patrick Mouratoglou. Simply being so close to her was exciting! I will always keep the pictures I took on that day. I could feel her strength, vigor, and passion even on the practice court as I stood and watched her. Interestingly, I can’t remember if she won that day’s match.
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