Black women in pro tennis have never been so plentiful and talented. The future of the game is in great hands and the fact that we get to see so many young titans battle against the greatest tandem of sisters to ever pick up a sport makes the transition official, intense, culturally influential and transformative, but most importantly a marketing goldmine for women’s tennis.
The U.S. Open will forever be remembered as the jumping-off point for a new era of Black superstars in women’s tennis.
PART 1: COCO GAUFF VS. NAOMI OSKA
CoCo Gauff, tennis’ latest anointed prodigy and Naomi will face each other in a tournament for the first time when they meet in the third round of the United States Open on Saturday. Osaka, the Japanese and Haitian superstar, has risen to No. 1 in the world and won two Grand Slam singles titles: last year’s United States Open and this year’s Australian Open. She’s the unofficial new Black queen of tennis right now.
If CoCo can pull off the upset, her celebrity will skyrocket to another level and her confidence will have been rewarded.
CoCo’s parents Corey and Candi appeared on ESPN’s First Take and addressed CoCo’s bold claim that she wants to be the GOAT when it’s all said and done. Especially considering Serena Williams is still playing and very much a force on the tour.
“Being the greatest of all time… some people might say that’s too much or you’re boasting or being cocky, but if you play a sport you want to be the best and you want to be the greatest to ever play that sport. Now ultimately you will get judged by how you perform throughout your career, but I don’t know anybody who goes out to be the second-best and if they are then they won’t even make it in the sport anyway. So that’s the perspective.”
It will take another quarter-century almost before we find out if CoCo achieved her goals, but it will be fun watching in the meantime.
Seeds Of Williams Sisters Legacy Bear Fruit
Two decades ago, The Williams Sisters were the only hope for black tennis and American tennis. They carried that burden like Queens, meeting every challenge, inspiring others and always keeping their celebrity in perspective. As they ascended to mythical levels of celebrity and notoriety, they never forgot their humble Compton roots and the work ethic instilled in them by their father Richard.
Now we have Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens and Naomi Osaka and baby CoCo and Taylor Townsend and another young black, American star named Whitney Osuigwe steaming down the pipeline, fighting for the crown.
Osuigwe lost to No 5 in the world Elina Svitolina (6-1, 7-5) as a wild card in the U.S. Open first round, but she’s just getting started. The 17-year-old from Bradenton Florida is the reigning ITF Junior World Champion and also won the 2017 French Open to become the first American to win the girls’ singles event in 28 years.
The adulation, roar of the crowd and inevitability of retirement increases every time one of The Williams Sisters takes the court at a Grand Slam singles event.
Venus’ days of being a Top 10 court-slayer has long passed, but the 52nd ranked player in the world is still a threat to steal a round or two in a major, even at age 39. The seven-time Grand Slam winner lost a tough second-round match, 6-4, 6-4 to the No. 5 ranked player in the world on Wednesday. Her career stands on its own merits.
Serena is ranked No. 8 in the world despite the burden of injuries, the birth of her daughter in 2018 and the crop of young players of color who — at different times over the past few years — defeated her in major competition.
Serena’s final conquest — Margaret Court’s 24 Grand Slam singles titles — continues as the 23-time champ attempts to advance to the fourth round of the US Open with a win today.
The Legacy of The Williams Sisters stands alone in the annals of American sports. Over two decades of world-changing cultural and athletic dominance, that is slowly and stubbornly giving way to a new breed of tennis stars of color whose current success was directly inspired by the Williams Sisters mythical saga.
The results of The Williams Sisters two decades of tennis mastery is evident in the influx of young Black women competing for WTA titles and capturing the hearts of tennis fans all across the world.
EXPLOSION OF THE NEW CLASS
The Williams Sisters are still playing, but the new breed is quickly gaining a legion of fans. This evolution was no more evident than when Gauff became the youngest American woman to reach the 3rd round at the US Open since 1991.
After defeating tour veteran Timea Babos in three riveting sets on Thursday night, she was serenaded by the near-capacity crowd at Louis Armstrong Stadium in Queens, with a chant of “Coco.”
The Delray Beach product catapulted to fame after reaching the fourth round in her first Wimbledon, defeating Venus Williams along the way before losing to the eventual champion, Simona Halep.
The inconsistencies of Madison Keys — who’s playing her third-round US Open match this evening and still seeking her first singles title and 2017 US Open Champion Sloane Stephens, who was upset in the first round — have allowed newcomers such as Gauf and Taylor Townsend to steal the spotlight.
The Underdog: Taylor Townsend
Townsend is the 23-year-old American who upset Wimbledon champion and No. 4 seed Simona Halep 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday,
It’s Townsend’s first win in 11 tries against a player in the top 10. She’s currently ranked 116th in the world. Despite the fact that Townsend has been to the third round of a major before, she was never on the radar the way she is now. She was always considered a cut below the brand names. Especially when it came to listing the Black women who would take the torch from The Williams Sisters.
Born in Chicago and now residing in Atlanta, Townsend once was the top-ranked junior in the world. When she was 18 years old in 2014, Townsend reached the third round of the French Open. She had some setbacks after that early success which caused people to body shame her about her weight. Townsend overcame all of the turmoil and broke the Top 100 by 2017.
Now she’ll try to take the next step toward greatness and keep the Black Girl magic going on Saturday.
The future of women’s tennis is on full display at the U.S. Open. It’s Black, diverse, passionate, colorful and athletically engaging. At the same time, they are competing for even higher stakes than a singles championship. These women are also jockeying for their place in history and positioning themselves to take over as the one to continue a legacy of greatness initiated by The Willaims Sisters.