These Vintage Photos of Venus and Serena Williams Reveal the Truth of ‘King Richard’

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I remember the first time I saw Venus Williams play tennis live. It was at the US Open in 2001. Tennis was (and still is) my favorite sport to both watch and play, but live sports often overwhelmed me and it wasn’t always easy to see what was actually going on (especially from the nosebleed section), which sometimes led me to get bored. Venus, however, stopped me in my tracks. She played so beautifully. She had already won the US Open singles title the year before, so we wasn’t a total newcomer, but both of the Williams sisters were still early in their careers then. It was amazing how their impact was already reverberating, their playing styles so immediate and so impressive. This and so much more is what makes their origin story the stuff of mythology; no wonder we are so drawn to their story. The photos included in this piece of their early days training with their father are both striking and moving, from Smithsonian Magazine.

The off-court shots, particularly the one of them lying on each other, radiate the joyful, sisterly bond Lyons witnessed. Their love for the sport, and the man teaching them the game, is as strong as their forehands would become. 

Briana Foust, co-host of the tennis podcast “One Additional Challenge” and the originator of the #BlackPeopleSavingUSTennis hashtag, thinks fondly of one photo of the sisters, with Serena smiling at the camera and Venus looking off to the side. “It embodies their personalities that we know now. I love the childlike innocence of the future hall-of-famers.”

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