Serena & Venus Williams: ‘We never planned to just only play tennis’

I think it was Billie Jean King who said something like: Venus Williams and Serena Williams are the loves of each other’s lives. They have always had such a strong sister-bond and they didn’t stop living together until both were well into their 30s. Serena has always been open about how she always wanted to do everything Venus did, and Venus always took her big-sistering seriously. And here we are: 30 Slams in singles combined, and 14 Slam titles together in doubles. Plus Olympic gold medals, and more WTA singles and doubles titles than you can count. Serena and Venus cover the latest issue of Harper’s Bazaar and the photoshoot by Renell Medrano is very cool. You can read the full Bazaar piece here – the purpose is to talk about King Richard and Black womanhood and legacies. Some highlights:

Why ‘King Richard’ is framed the way it is: “I don’t think people even thought about what happened before we turned pro,” Venus tells me. “This isn’t a movie about tennis,” Serena adds. “This is a movie about family.”

The Williams family and the Black American experience. Venus is quick to point out the idiosyncratic in the universal: “I think that our family is just unique to ourselves. Obviously we’re an African American family, and it’s important for people to see African American families in that dynamic … to have role modeling… our family was super unique.”

Serena on her superhero family: “I am a dreamer, and I love Marvel. I think King Richard is like Iron Man and that there still are other stories around it. The next, obviously, would be the Venus story, and then there’s always the story about our other three sisters, and then there’s like a mom, and then there’s the Serena story. When I look at it, I see it just encompassing this whole superhero kind of thing.”

What Richard Williams gave his daughters: Serena says, “A lot of people get this different story of sports fathers—especially tennis fathers, who are really overbearing. And that wasn’t necessarily my dad. Everyone’s like, ‘Well, how do you play tennis for so long?’ It’s because we weren’t raised in an environment where it was something that we abhorred.”

Serena on her father’s advice throughout her career: “He’s always like, ‘Take your time. You’ll be okay. Don’t play.’” Another Richard-ism: “My dad always told us to plan ahead. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It’s a dictum that the sisters have applied not just to tennis but to imagining life beyond it. “We never planned to just only play tennis and just only be tennis players,” she says. “We planned to do more.” And she’s quick to point out that Venus is the real family planner. “I’m an unbelievable planner,” Venus boasts. “I usually plan the health retreats.”

Serena on their legacy: “That’s something I don’t think about nor do I want. I don’t want to think about what I’m leaving. I just think about who I am every single day behind closed doors and behind cameras. And that’s what I focus on.”

[From Harper’s Bazaar]

It’s a really beautiful piece about what the Williams sisters mean not just for tennis, but as a positive story about a Black American family working together to achieve a dream. It’s a story about hard work and overcoming adversity, and how to raise champions AND well-adjusted women in a pressure-filled toxic environment. I follow tennis and let me tell you, the tennis community is still in denial about all of the sh-t that Venus and Serena went through, and what the family had to overcome.

Covers & IG courtesy of Harper’s Bazaar.

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6 Responses to “Serena & Venus Williams: ‘We never planned to just only play tennis’”

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  1. M says:

    That photo in the puffy house coats is terrible. The rest are great. Women’s tennis would not be as popular today if these women hadn’t come along. I admire them so much.

  2. North of Boston says:

    The WCU – Williams Cinematic Universe – I’d show up for that if done by skilled filmmakers.

  3. C-Shell says:

    Not loving the pic in the puffy, floral housecoats (?), but I expect it will grow on me because I love this HB editorial. Just saw King Richard last weekend and am still in awe. This article makes the movie’s point — their parents created a phenomenal family full of superior achievers, overcoming what seemed like insurmountable odds, endemic racism in every sphere. I would absolutely watch every installment in the Williams Universe.

  4. MsIam says:

    Love Venus and Serena but I don’t like any these pics except the one of Venus by the car. I enjoyed King Richard very much. I remember watching Venus’ first big match against Arancha Sanchez Vicario so it was interesting to see the behind the scenes perspective.

  5. tw says:

    I’m a huge fan, love the interview, and loved King Richard. This editorial is not great. Serena posts better photos on her IG