Kids Sports News Network

A Documentary for the Tennis Fan

Venus and Serena: Their Story and Their Struggle

Two girls learning to play tennis in East Compton California with beads in their hair and drug dealers around the corner grow into incredible women winning 107 singles titles and earning over $87 million in prize money alone.  As the promising 18 year old African-American tennis player from Chicago said after losing to Serena in the first round at the 2014 US Open, “Who would’ve thought that was possible?”

Venus Williams, now 34, make her pro debut 20 years ago and Serena Williams, now 33, won her first Grand Slam 15 years ago.  And, while they know that one of these days they will have to decide what is next for them, Serena Williams still dominated women’s tennis at this year’s US Open taking her 18th grade slams singles title.  While Althea Gibson became the first African-American tennis player to compete in the 1950’s, the Williams sisters made tennis, once considered a country-clubs sport, popular for an entire generation of kids.

You can watch the hour and a half documentary, streaming on Netflix, “Venus and Serena.”  Directed by Maiken Baird and Michelle Major, this documentary scores a 77% on the Tomatometer.  While it is rated PG-13 for strong-language, the language is not scripted and bleeped out.  This incredible story follows Venus and Serena closely through 2011 as the players dealt not only with injuries and illness but also the untimely death of their older sister due to gang violence in their hometown.  The documentary takes a look at the cracked tennis courts in Compton, CA where the sisters trained, interviews their first coaching influences as well as the Williams family.  It includes lots of great footage from when they were starting out, still with beads in their hair.  Throughout you can see the extent of their father’s direction in their life and their careers as he collected shopping carts full of used tennis balls to practice with and some of the out-of-the-box ideas he had for practice like throwing footballs and tennis rackets to develop their throw.  Overall, you can see how the sisters’ greatest strength comes from the relationship between the two of them.

And, in 2014, Serena Williams proves Wyclef Jean’s song “Heart of a Warrior” true:  The prodigy of the ghetto, her destiny was to play in the arena, reign in the arena.  When balls fly, don’t be surprised. As the phoenix rise I’m a champion with the heart of a warrior.  Wyclef Jean, a Haitian-American musician, had previous to this documentary written a song for Venus “Venus (I’m Ready)” when they worked on a Sundance Channel series together.  When Serena asked about her song, Jean said “Don’t worry, your song is coming.”  The music written specifically for the documentary will stay with you for days both catchy and inspiring.  The song adds to the themes of struggle and triumph.  Jean said of the song: “That’s what I get from Serena and Venus. They’re excellent at what they do, they win a lot, but the road has not been easy. If you watch the documentary…it’s beyond a sports story. I think when kids watch their story, from any part of the globe, and whatever they go through, whether they’re from the hood or the suburbs, this is a story where kids can get inspired to do better.”


Author: Melanie Carbine

Melanie Carbine currently writes for several education blogs, vlogs about her travels, and teaches middle school in the DC Metro Area.

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