Back & Forth

Althea Gibson & Serena Williams


Starting from Althea Gibson to end with Venus and Serena Williams, talking not only about tennis, but also about Harlem of the 30s, female Afro American tennis, about the two most famous sisters of world’s tennis, about them being number 1 and champions, about being champions and moms.

Althea Gibson

Venus Williams stated: “I have all the opportunities today because of people like Althea. Just trying to follow in her footsteps.”
Her sister Serena reaffirmed the concept: “Althea set an example. I know every time I step out on the court I play for me and I play for all the other little African American kids out there who have a dream and who might not have the means.” The two most famous sisters of female tennis pay tribute to Althea. Who was she? Althea Gibson was born in 1927, grew up in Harlem, where her family lived. It was the time when buses still had a restricted section for black people, when school classes were differentiated on the basis of skin color, when access to many shops was denied to Afro Americans. Althea’s wasn’t an easy life. But she didn’t give up. She received a racket as a present. It all began. Barriers fall down. This is how in 1946 Althea Gibson achieves her first A.T.A. (American Tennis Association) final. From now on, successes follow one another. France Open. US Open. Wimbledon. Until she becomes the number 1 in the world ranking, in 1957 and in 1958. She remained the only Afro American female tennis player to be the world’s number 1, before Venus Williams arrived, about 50 years later. Everything has come full circle. Another beginning. With Venus and Serena.

Serena Williams

At the beginning, it seemed she was the less suited for tennis between the two Williams sisters. Compared to Venus she looked less gifted for constant twitches and quick changes of direction. Venus on the altar. Serena struggling. Nobody, however, had considered the personality and mental strength of the younger Williams sister. Who, quietly, planned the re-match, the revolution. And so it was. Serena devoured Venus, on the court and out. And she became the star, the champion, the Queen: the number 1. Slaughtering rivals. Dominating, far and wide, high and low. Tennis never seen before. Serena’s wonderful smile, serene and contagious at the same time, soon conquered the covers of the magazines of the whole world. Aggressive, never tame, a powerful forehand, a two-hand backhand, a service that doesn’t forgive: Serena Williams.
In January 2017 she finds out she is pregnant.
She stops everything.
She changes everything.
She dreams everything.
Now, finally mom, she has an heir for her throne.
Game. Match. Meet.