50 Years, 50 Heroes: Venus & Serena Williams, 1992

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For our sixth annual Heroes Issue, we’ve selected passages from the last 50 years of Tennis Magazine and TENNIS.com—starting in 1969 and ending in 2018—to highlight 50 worthy heroes. Each passage acknowledges the person as they were then; each subsequent story catches up with the person, or highlights their impact, as they are now. It is best summed up with a quote from the great Arthur Ashe, that was featured on the cover of the November/December issue of this magazine in 2015: “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”

I phoned an old friend, Richard Roth, a correspondent at CBS-TV in Los Angeles. Shortly after the New York Times ran its front-page feature on Venus Williams, Roth
wanted to do a
piece about her for the evening news, and initially her father had been receptive. He allowed CBS to film her practicing on the shabby public courts of Compton, Calif. - Michael Mewshaw / October 1992

In the late 1980s, Venus and Serena Williams spent most of their time bashing balls on Compton, CA’s public courts. Richard Williams moved his young daughters to the hardscrabble city, known more for gangs than tennis, to teach them toughness.

These days, in their late 30s, Venus and Serena are still bashing balls, and have won a combined 48 Grand Slam titles. They’ve established a family tennis dynasty that will likely never be duplicated, while inspiring countless youngsters to chase their dreams, regardless of where they come from.

One such youngster is Kalli Minor. An aspiring player from Compton, the 12-year-old’s Instagram
page (@kalliminor) is filled with videos and pictures of her practicing and training. It caught Serena’s eye: “You can be better than me!!!!” she commented on one of Minor’s posts.

Inspired, Minor made a “Straight Outta Compton” sign for Serena’s first match at the 2015 BNP Paribas Open. Then, Minor got to meet her idol. Minor—now an ambassador for the USTA’s Net Generation program—has since kept in contact with Venus and Serena as she pursues her goals.

“Compton to me is home. I grew up there. It might be a little rough but it’s home, it’s a beautiful city, “ Minor says. “My goal is to be the greatest of all time, like Serena.”

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