The gender gap in sports today isn't an issue since almost all sports have dedicated categories for both genders. But among countless sports to mention, the most followed women-played games are soccer, badminton, basketball, and tennis. Regarding the latter, women became revolutionary agents that forever changed the sport's competitive environment.
In this article, we will mention the most iconic women's tennis prodigies, their humble beginnings and struggles, notable achievements, and their impact on the tennis world.
All tennis fans know Serena Williams as the player representing women of color on the tennis court. But beyond breaking barriers and dominating the table tennis betting lines, Serena Williams could tell us a story of her humble beginnings.
She may be considered the most remarkable woman tennis player in history, but she didn't play on fancy courts when she was young. Her father, Richard Williams, trained her and her sister, Venus, in public courts in Los Angeles.
In 1991, their family transferred to Florida so she and her sister could attend a tennis academy in Florida, and the two teamed up to win 14 Grand Slam doubles titles. When she turned 14 in 1995, she entered professional competitions.
While many believe Venus would be the first to earn a Grand Slam singles title. However, it was Serena who won the 1999 U.S. Open, achieving victory at 17. In her career, she has secured 23 Grand Slam singles titles, making her the woman player with the most number of titles.
Any sports player can encounter injuries, but only those who are women of color experience racist and sexist attacks from the media. Athletes could overcome injuries with proper medical attention, but with issues of racism and sexism, the effects on one's life could be demoralizing. But in the case of Serena, she has overcome these attacks for decades.
Most of the criticisms she would get are directed at her bulky physique and her color. However, with such comments proliferating every time she steps on the court, she says she has grown to love her body.
Many black women players are looking up to her. With this, she has changed the world of tennis for women of color, raising champions like Naomi Osaka, a black woman who adores Serena so much.
Osaka is a multiracial professional tennis player of Japanese, Haitian, and American descent. She won the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Newcomer Award at age 19, manifesting a promising career ahead of her.
She won her first major tournament in 2018 through the U.S. Open; however, what came next was her struggles with her mental health. In 2020, she was the highest-paid woman athlete in the world, with $55 million worth of prize money and endorsements. However, she came to the point where she lost interest in what she was doing and suffered depression.
As a global superstar, she made her way out of such a phase and continued to inspire women of color through her prowess on the tennis court. Moreover, she used her platform as a sports icon to advocate for racial justice.
She actively supports the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. In fact, in the 2020 U.S. Open, she wore a BLM mask to spark discussions on the brutal murder of Breonna Taylor, who was shot by the police in her home while she was asleep.
Whenever Osaka gets to speak, she fires powerful statements to substantiate the BLM and mental health issues athletes encounter. Today, Osaka remains a tennis legend and activist who motivates others to stand against racial discrimination and open up about their mental health struggles.
Coco Gauff became famous for defeating Venus Williams during Wimbledon 2019 when she was just 15. She just turned 19 last March 13, 2023, yet the young prodigy has proven a solid history of victories in her early career.
She started playing when she was six and was mentored by Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams' coach, when she turned 15. There's an existing restriction on players aged 14 to 17 as instituted by WTA that limits Gauff's participation in professional competitions, which has delayed her surge in the rankings. Regardless of the rule, she ranked four on WTA's singles ranking. In the present, Gauff continues to expand her influence in the sports, earning endorsement after endorsement and winning half a million dollars in 2019 and 2020.
Steffi Graf is the only woman tennis player to earn the Golden Grand Slam, earning four major titles and the Olympics on October 1, 1988. She's retired and lives with her family in Las Vegas while doing charity work.
She was taught to play the sport at age 3, and at age 13, she transitioned to a professional tennis player. Aside from her athletic skills, her mental toughness made her a champion. She said she always strives to outperform herself more than any top player she faces on the court.
Her 17-year career was indeed fruitful, earning her 22 grand slams, 107 titles, and 4 Olympic medals. She was named the “Greatest Tennis Female Player” by multiple magazines, and sports channels and her outstanding record can attest to that.
Today, women are empowered in all aspects of society more than ever. The sense of pride that modern women enjoy today is the impact of the legendary females who made sure to represent the population as strong and competitive in different fields, especially in sports. Thus, it's only right that we mention their names to honor their legacies that have reached our generations and more years to come.