• Serena Williams at her Women's Singles fourth round match against Maria Sakkari. (Getty Images )Source: Getty Images
As Serena Williams becomes the first athlete to win 100 matches in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, sports commentators celebrate the Williams sisters' legacy in boosting the game's diversity.
By
SBS staff writers

8 Sep 2020 - 12:20 PM  UPDATED 8 Sep 2020 - 12:31 PM

In a near-empty stadium on Monday, Serena Williams claimed victory against Maria Sakkari in the fourth round of US Open, becoming the first person in the sport's history to win 100 matches at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.  

But as Williams proceeds to the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam tournament for the 53rd time, she and her sister are also making history of a different kind.  

As New York Times reports, this year's women’s singles tournament has seen its highest number of Black American players - 12 in total: some who identify as multiracial, and four are recipients of wild cards from the United States Tennis Association.

Fans are quick to share their excitement on social media: 

Sports reporter Christopher Clarey attributes the rise in the number of aspiring Black players to the Williams sisters' success. 

Back in 2010, in contrast, Clarey notes that Venus Williams was the only African-American player in the women’s singles draw.

This year, Hailey Baptiste, 18, who received a U.S. Open wild card says, “I feel like it’s amazing to see so many girls that look like me playing in the tournament and the main draw.” 

The importance of having the Williams sisters as role models made a huge impact on the young Black player. 

"Once I started to play more, I started watching Venus and Serena. I had somebody to look up to, somebody I wanted to play like, and then I got to meet them at the Washington Kastles team tennis event, and that just pushed me even more,” Baptiste tells NY Times

Williams sisters' legacy also made a difference in the gender split of elite tennis in the US. Currently, only one American man ranked in the top 100 is Black, compared to a total of 10 Black American women in the top 200.  

Martin Blackman, general manager of player development at the U.S.T.A., calls this the 'demonstration effect'.

“It all starts with Venus and Serena,” Blackman tells NY Times, "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. Just a huge impact that really can’t be overstated. That attracted thousands of girls into the sport, not just African-American but all backgrounds and races.”

Interestingly, Frances Tiafoe, the only male Black American player in the top 100, also hails the Williams sisters as the reason for his career success.

"Serena Williams and Venus Williams is why Frances Tiafoe is even a name," the 22-year-old said

"I had a similar come-up, and Serena Williams and Venus Williams are always going to be major GOATs to me, and I just hope one day I can be in the same sentence as them.” 

Here's to the Willams sisters' win for diversity in the US Open history.