Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Venus and Serena Williams: Inspiring Pioneers Both On and Off the Court

Editor's Note:

Venus and Serena Williams are two of the most prominent athletes in the world and since the late 1990s have dominated the international sport of women's tennis. Winner of 14 Grand Slam singles titles between them, with an additional eight Grand slam titles in doubles as well, the sisters (who were born in Compton, California and have lived in Florida for many years) have also won Olympic gold medals in both singles and doubles competitions in the Olympic games. Known for their extraordinary technical prowess in the sport as well as their patented speed, power, grace, and fierce determination to win, the sisters have inspired young women and men alike around the world to take up the game--especially in Africa, Asia, and Latin America where, as in the United States and Europe, they have reached iconic 'living legend' status. They are especially revered by African Americans in general not only because of their pioneering contributions in sports but also because of their many high profile charitable and community-centered educational activities.

Beautiful, stylish, dynamic, witty, well rounded, and business savvy 27 year old Venus and her 26 year old 'baby sister' Serena have captured the attention of the fashion and interior design worlds as well because of their ongoing interest and professional involvement in these industries. In December, 2007 Venus received a professional degree in fashion and design and both she and Serena have not only participated in many fashion events as designers and models but Venus has also designed the interiors for a number of prominent public and private companies. In fact Tavis Smiley's PBS talk show's set was designed by Venus's design company V Starr Interiors out of Jupiter, Florida.

The video above features the sisters promoting their joint appearance on the cover of the new March 2008 issue of ESPN, The Magazine where they also share space with nine other prominent American athletes in the special 10th anniversary issue of the magazine.

I must admit a personal bias here because the sisters--and especially Venus--are my favorite athletes on the planet and I have been a devoted fan of them and their game since both sisters formally began their professional careers in the sport in 1997 and 1998. So here's to the truly great Venus and Serena Williams, charismatic African American revolutionaries armed with tennis racquets and a powerful commitment to excellence--both on and off the court.


Williamses Grace ESPN The Magazine Cover

To commemorate its 10th anniversary this week, 'ESPN The Magazine' has released 10 different covers of their latest publication and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour stars Serena and Venus Williams will take pride of place on one of them. As two of the most iconic sports personalities of the past decade it is fitting the American siblings have been honored with a place as one of the celebratory coverpieces.

"We're both really excited to be on one of the 10 covers," Serena said. "I think we owe so much of our success to each other. I mean Venus was the first African American to become world No.1 and all her successes motivated me to be the best."

"I wouldn't have been able to make it without her either," Venus concurred. "She inspired me to be a better player and to achieve so many of my goals. I think the Olympics [Venus won the singles title before teaming up with her sister to take gold in the doubles at Sydney in 2000] were one of the high points. Winning gold was an amazing feeling and something we can look back on as a massive achievement."

Since bursting onto the scene in the late 1990s, Serena and Venus rapidly established themselves as two of the biggest names in not only tennis, but world sport as a whole. The sisters have accumulated a staggering 65 Tour singles titles between them and spent a combined total of 68 weeks at world No.1. With eight and six Grand Slam singles titles respectively, Serena and Venus sit at sixth and 10th in the all-time list of major winners and with their unrivalled all-court game few would bet against them adding to this tally in the years to come.

'ESPN The Magazine' is a bi-weekly sports magazine published by the world-renowned ESPN sports network and was launched 10 years ago on March 11, 1998.