INTO ATA HALL OF FAME
Ashley Marshall | August 3, 2017
There may be few more remarkable stories in all of sport than that of the Williams sisters' meteoric rise to the top of the tennis mountain and their two decade-long dominance at its summit.
But behind the scenes, with unwavering self-belief and inexplicable confidence from Day 1, is Venus and Serena's father, Richard Williams, who always said his daughters were destined for superstardom.
On Wednesday night, the sisters' father and former coach became the first person inducted into the American Tennis Association (ATA) Hall of Fame at the Lord Baltimore Hotel in Baltimore, Md. Last week, he was also inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
“It goes without saying what my dad has done for Serena and I, and changing the game of tennis, and for what he’s done for the sport, too,” Venus told The Philadelphia Tribune.
“I’m forever grateful. I’m so excited for his honor.”
Williams, now 75 years old, was born in Shreveport, La., and lived in Chicago after high school before eventually moving to California. His interest in tennis started when he saw a tournament on TV where the winner collected $40,000. Williams, who taught himself how to play the game in part by watching instructional videos, according to a 1999 Sports Illustrated profile, began coaching Venus and Serena at public courts in Los Angeles when they were in elementary school.
Williams, who saw tennis as a way to get his children out of Compton, pulled the sisters away from the Southern California junior tennis circuit against the advice of coaches and moved the family to Florida in 1991 so the sisters could attend Rick Macci's tennis academy in Delray Beach. Venus and Serena played at the academy for around five years before Richard took them out to coach them himself at their West Palm Beach home.
Serena went on to win 23 Grand Slam women's singles titles, including six at the US Open, while Venus collected seven major singles titles, two of which came in New York, in 2000 and 2001. Together, they also won 14 doubles titles at majors, including the US Open in 1999 and 2009, and three Olympic gold medals in women's doubles. (Each also owns a gold medal in singles.)
In 2002, the sisters each rose to No. 1 in the WTA rankings -- Venus in February and Serena fives months later in July -- fulfilling a prediction their father had made more than a decade earlier.
“This year we recognize ATA’s value as a historic organization, and there’s no better way of doing that than to honor a man whose legacy is built upon the propitious parenting and coaching of his two daughters, both of whom have blossomed into top-tier doyens," said ATA Education Foundation President Dr. Franklyn Scott. "These successful women have traveled beyond the stars thanks to their instilled determination and training while breaking plenty of barriers along the way. It is for the significance of Richard Williams in Venus and Serena’s athletic prowess and intellectual know-how that we would like to honor him as our first Hall of Famer."