In celebration of Black History Month, the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF) released a digital exhibit, Breaking the Racial Barriers, which is a comprehensive look at the history of black tennis in America. The exhibit includes brief profiles of black tennis pioneers, former pros and current top pros, including tennis greats Serena and Venus Williams and Dr. R. Walter Johnson, who in 2009 was inducted into the (ITHF) as a contributor. Throughout the Australian Open, the will recognize selected black pioneers and current players.

23 Grand Slam titles 

Richard Williams couldn’t hide the gleam in his eyes 23 years ago, as he shared his reaction to his 17-year-old daughter, Venus, reaching the final in her 1997 U.S. Open debut.  During a chat with the media, Williams flashed an I-know-something-you-don’t-know-smile before spilling what he knew. “Nobody’s going to believe this, but Serena (then 16) is going to be better than Venus,” Williams said. “Wait and see.” Father indeed knew best about that.

In an ongoing career that expands three decades, Serena, 39, has dazzled and mesmerized fans throughout the world with her athleticism, powerful baseline strokes, blistering serve and will to win. In the Open Era, which began in 1968, Serena has been ranked No. 1 in the world 319 weeks and shares the record for most consecutive weeks (186) at No. 1 with former pro Steffi Graf.  Twenty three of her 73 titles were claimed at the four major events – Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open.  While she holds the record for most major titles in the Open Era, she is one behind Margaret Smith in the all-time category.  Smith won most of her major titles before the Open era began. 

In 2018, a panel selected Serena as the greatest female tennis player in the Open Era. Some of the game’s top analysts, coaches and fellow pros already have dubbed her the GOAT (greatest of all time). Serena disagrees. “I started playing tennis not to be the greatest but because I had a racquet and a dream,” Serena once said. “Now people are saying that I could be, but I’m just not there yet. I feel like Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi, they are the ultimate icons.”


Courtesy of International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF)