At the 2010 U.S. Open, which Serena Williams missed because of injury, Venus Williams was the only African-American player in the women’s singles draw.
Fast forward just ten years, and Venus, age 40, is still in the main draw of this year’s U.S. Open and so is her sister Serena, age 38, who is once again among the favorites to win the tournament.
This year’s Open is different in many ways. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing requirements, the Open is taking place but fans are not in attendance. The players, like members of the NBA, are operating in a bubble, and among those players is a record-breaking crowd of Black female players.
In this year’s women’s singles tournament, there were 12 American players who are Black, some of them multiracial and four of them recipients of wild cards from the United States Tennis Association. The Black players from the U.S. represent nearly 1/10th of the field of 128 women.
“It all starts with Venus and Serena,” said Martin Blackman, general manager of the United States Tennis Association player development, and a former Black male tennis professional tennis player.
The Williamses have clearly inspired more diversity within the sports, Blackman continued.
“That demonstration effect, the power of seeing two African-American girls with braids in the finals of the biggest tournaments in the world in a predominantly White sport, is just a huge impact that really can’t be overstated,” he said. “That attracted thousands of girls into the sport, not just African American but all backgrounds and races.”
In addition to Venus and Serena, who are the oldest American women in the draw, the youngest American women are also Black. There’s Robin Montgomery, age 15, and Coco Gauff and Katrina Scott, who are both 16.
Gauff has received a lot of attention, after her deep run last year at both Wimbledon and the U.S Open, but a lot of the other ladies aren’t as well known, even though they have bright futures ahead of them:
Serena Williams, seeded 3rd, was the highest ranking Black woman in the tournament, and has a good chance of what would be a record-breaking 24th Grand Slam Tournament win.
Naomi Osaka, 22 and seeded 4th, was raised in America, but her father is Haitian and her mother is Japanese. She wasn’t included in that record breaking number of African-American women, because she plays as a representative of Japan.
Madison Keys, 25 and seeded 7th, was runner-up in the 2017 U.S. Open
Sloane Stephens, 26, beat Keys in the all-Black 2017 final of the U.S. Open.
Asia Muhammad, 29, is ranked 46 in the world.
Sachia Vickery, 25, is ranked 160 in the world.
Taylor Townsend, 24, is ranked 79 in the world.
Coco Gauff, 16, made a third-round run here a year ago and beat defending champion Naomi Osaka in Australia in January.
The young guard of color at the Open includes:
Whitney Osuigwe, 18.
Hailey Baptiste, 18, wild-card entry after withdrawal.
Katrina Scott, 16, late wild-card entry.