That the legacy of Venus and Serena Williams goes beyond tennis is an established fact. The two Americans will go down in history not only as two of the greatest tennis players but also as athletes who transformed the game. The sisters have fought a long battle for equal pay and social justice as black female athletes.
But as successful as Serena and Venus have been as icons and tennis players, the rivalry and lopsided head-to-head between the sisters has always been a talking point. The comparisons between the sisters have always been there, right from the 1990s when they began playing and winning consistently. The fact that they faced off against each other so often was both a highlight and cause for controversy once upon a time.
On an individual level, their achievements are exceptional and longevity even more so. Serena, at 38, has 23 Grand Slam titles while 40-year-old Venus has seven. Both Williams sisters have been ranked World No. 1: Venus for a total of 11 weeks, beginning in February 2002; Serena for a total of 316 weeks, beginning in July 2002.
The Williams sisters are the only women in the Open era to play each other in four consecutive Grand Slam finals: from the 2002 French Open to the 2003 Australian Open. Serena won all four of these finals.
The fact that Serena is more successful despite Venus being the older sister who made her way to the top first is often discussed. Venus herself swats this issue of competition aside, saying that being a big sister was a role she cherished, in her column for The Players Tribune.
They have played each other 31 times in their career and Serena leads their head-to-head 19–12. But as lop-sided as the numbers are, the fact that Venus and Serena are still competing – their most recent meeting came earlier this month at the Lexington event and went to three sets – is a marvel. Seen together, the impact of Williams sisters numbers are staggering.
The latest advertisement by sportswear brand Nike celebrates just this, by combining their achievements instead of pitting them against each other.
“Ever since we were little girls you have compared us to each other,” Serena says in a voiceover. “It’s funny, you saw two tennis players trying to win a game. We saw two sisters changing it.”
It is worth noting Venus is not an athlete with Nike but wears her own apparel brand on court called ‘EleVen’.
This is latest is Nike’s ad campaign ‘You can’t stop sport’ to mark a year severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s released to mark the return of Grand Slam tennis at the US Open, which starts Monday.
Both sisters shared the ad with the caption: “When one of us wins, we both win. You can’t stop sisters.”