Hundreds Of Songs Have Been Written About The Game-Changing Tennis Players
The 2023 U.S. Open begins today in Queens, N.Y., and one of the tournament’s all-time greatest and most beloved competitors is back in the field, making her 24th appearance in the main draw. That player is 43-year-old Venus Williams, a two-time champ who, along with her sister Serena, a six-time champ, utterly revolutionized the game of tennis over the last three decades.
The Williams sisters introduced what The New York Times calls an “aggressive, all-action” playing style that has become standard on the professional circuit. In doing so, they’ve racked up more than two dozen combined Grand Slam singles titles and emerged as powerful role models for young people of color who dream of succeeding in traditionally white spaces.
The amazing story of the Williams sisters is familiar even to those with zero interest in tennis. Raised in Compton, California—the city that famously gave rise to N.W.A—Venus and Serena started playing tennis at a very early age. Coached by their fiercely determined father, Richard, who sometimes battled local gang members for use of public courts, Serena and Venus became child prodigies and turned pro in their teens. The sport would never be the same.
Serena, whom experts like John McEnroe consider the greatest player of all time, won 23 Grand Slam titles before announcing her “evolution” away from the game last August, just before competing in what may have been her final U.S. Open. Venus, who’s still active, has seven Grand Slam singles wins to her credit. As doubles partners, Venus and Serena have won 14 Grand Slam titles. Impressive as these numbers are, they don’t fully illustrate the greatness or importance of the Williams sisters.
Venus and Serena battled racism and sexism throughout their careers and overcame challenges that other players never experienced. They’re the rare kinds of athletes who transcend sports and become cultural icons capable of affecting real change in the world. No wonder they’ve been immortalized in hundreds of song lyrics.
In advance of Venus’ upcoming U.S. Open appearance—and in honor of everything she and Serena have accomplished—we at Genius decided to run the numbers and examine the lyrical legacy of the Williams sisters.
According to Genius data, no fewer than 487 songs make reference to one or both of the Williams sisters. A plurality of these references—238 of them—mention Serena alone, while the sisters are mentioned together 230 times. (Only 19 of the lyrical mentions pertain solely to Venus.) Hip-hop is the main genre that name-checks the Williams sisters—437 of the songs are categorized as such—and the most popular year for mentions was 2019.
The Drake Subplot
In terms of page views, the biggest song on Genius with a mention of either Williams sister is Drake’s “Worst Behavior,”, a single off his 2014 album Nothing Was the Same. As Drizzy scoffs at haters and celebrates his come-up, he makes a pretty outrageous claim regarding his ability to compete with Serena on the court.
“I’m with my whole set, tennis matches at the crib
I swear I could beat Serena when she playin’ with her left”
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