Richard Williams & Oracene Price: International Tennis Hall of Fame Contributor Nomination Form

submitted by:

Ahmed Sule, CFA (Alatenumo) & MIKE SON on 20 December 2019

Richard Williams overcame the odds of Jim Crow in the South to coach Venus and Serena Williams to multiple Grand Slam glory thereby rewriting tennis history. In the process, he and Oracene Price changed how the game of women’s tennis is played and consequently inspired a generation of young black tennis players. They also facilitated the emergence of a new demographic of fans to engage with the sport which led to more followers. Oracene helped instill racial pride in her daughters and as a result of her effort .Richard , a man of strong conviction, he made the right calls for his daughters and the tennis world is better for it.

Richard & Oracene are parents and one-time tennis coach of Venus and Serena Williams. No one has made an impact on the game of tennis in the last two decades as much as Richard and Oracene. They are true pioneers, visionaries and have made a transcendent impact on the growth and development of the sport. They trained Venus and Serena Williams, two African-American ladies to become world-beaters, with a combined 30 Grand Slam singles titles and 14 Grand Slam double titles. Over twenty years since the sisters first graced the court, they are still standing. Prior to the emergence of the Williams Sisters, not many black people played tennis, talk less of dominated the sport, however, thanks to Richard and Oracene’s vision, they instilled in their daughters the belief that they could conquer the world.

As a direct result of their coaching which led to their daughter’s exploits, it has opened up opportunities for black people around the world to get involved in tennis. It has also brought in a new audience of black people who troop to the various Grand Slam events to watch tennis. Being people of colour, we certainly would not have been so interested in the sports had it not been for their daughters. They have both created a legacy and a template for tennis success which has been clearly demonstrated by Naomi Osaka, the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open Champion and Coco Gauff, the 2019 Wimbledon breakout star, whose parents both applied the roadmap created by Richard and Oracene. Moreover, there is a prevalence of black female tennis players on the tour such as Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Taylor Townsend, Whitney Osigwe etc many of who were inspired by the success of Richard and Oracene’s daughters.

Richard and Oracene contributed to how the game is now played. They were way ahead of the curve At a time when close-stance was the recognised style of playing tennis, Mr Williams challenged perceived wisdom and taught his daughters the open-stance style of play in spite of facing ridicule from the tennis world. Even when the pros were using the closed stance, he and his wife believed once perfected, it would bring power and speed to women’s tennis. Nearly twenty-five years later, coaches and players are adapting to the open-stance. They taught their daughters how to serve hard and hit the balls from anywhere on the court. This approach has transformed the game of women’s tennis.

Richard’s book titled Black and White has laid out how he went about raising tennis champions and acts as a guide for budding tennis parent/coaches. Oracene helped keep her daughters focused, trained and confident throughout different stages in their careers.She has helped her daughters be strong and independent women.

Richard and Oracene have also indirectly contributed to making the sport more financially viable. In raising two sisters to the summit of women’s tennis, they created global interest in the game. During the 2001 US Open final featuring Venus and Serena Williams in the final, history was created when for the first time, a Grand Slam women’s finale aired in US primetime, with 22.7 million viewers. Serena Williams has consistently fueled multi-year highs for the US Open. This has helped make the sports more profitable.

Tenacity: Even though Richard Williams never played professional tennis or trained to become a tennis coach, when he decided that his little girls will become tennis champions, he wrote a 78-page plan, learnt how to play tennis by watching instructional videos, joined a tennis club and had discussions with members of a tennis association. After studying the game, he added his own thoughts and transferred his philosophy to his kids and the rest is history. When gangs prevented his daughters from training on the tennis court, he stood up for his daughters at the expense of his wellbeing and was able to persuade them to leave the courts to him and Venus/Serena.

Sportsmanship & Integrity: Richard and Oracene taught Serena and Venus the importance of integrity in sports and sportsmanship. They instilled in them the importance of abiding by the rules and not to get involved in the use of the performance-enhancing substance to boost performance. Another demonstration of their integrity is their ability to speak the truth. They both highlighted the systematic racism in tennis. They never flinched in telling the tennis white world that their daughters will conquer the sport. Richard was outspoken when he and his daughters were racially insulted at Indian Wells. In addition to developing the technical and physical aspect of the Williams Sisters game, Oracene has helped build the mental aspect of their games. According to her, “During a match, I’m watching their techniques, mostly. But before the game, I’m watching them mentally. And I see a lot of people go out there, not mentally there, but it is so important, cause you have to believe that you can do something before you do it.”

Visionary: At a time when tennis was seen as a lilly white sports, they had the belief that their daughters would be world-beaters. Richard correctly predicted that his two daughters would be the top-seeded players in the world and that they will play in a Grand Slam final. Richard and Oracene pulled Venus and Serena away from the junior tennis circuit against the advice of coaches as they felt that they will burn out quickly. They have been proven right as his daughters are still playing tennis at the highest level while their colleagues who started at the same time have long retired. They are also adept at transferring their vision to others. To help their daughters achieve their vision, Richard and Oracene taught them three key principles, namely commitment, confidence and courage, which they named the Williams Life Triangle.

Preventing intimidation and image degradation: In 1995, a 14-year-old Venus was having an interview in which she said confidently that she could beat a player older than her. The interviewer questioned her confidence. Richard Williams interrupted the interview telling the interviewer, “You’ve got to understand that you’re dealing with the image of a 14-year-old child. … You’re dealing with a little black kid, and let her be a kid.” Such interventions have enabled his daughter and other black girls to be proud of their body image in a world where they have been told that they are second best. Oracene has also been an advocate for racial equality in tennis. Oracene has made timely interventions when her daughters were racially ill-treated throughout their careers.

First inductee of the American Tennis Association’s Hall of Fame.

Atlanta Black Tennis Hall of Fame Inductee

Even though Oracene was Serena and Venus coach, her contribution has been under-reported due to her role as their mother. Like her husband Richard Williams, she had to self -learn the game of tennis so as to teach her daughters. She played a critical role in keeping her daughters disciplined and helped their self-confidence and self-esteem. She helped build her daughter’s mental toughness by teaching them to be calm under pressure which helped them during key moments in matches.

With his unwavering self-belief, Richard Williams has been behind the scene orchestrating his daughters rise to the Mount Rushmore of tennis. He has changed the game of women’s tennis for good. His ability to escape the Jim Crow of the South, to teaching himself how to play tennis, to writing a 78-page tennis plan and sticking to it, to standing up to gangs to clear the path for his daughters to play; to raising two of the greatest women to have ever played the game of tennis; to inspiring a generation of female tennis players; to inspiring a black audience to go to tennis tournaments is more than enough justification for his inclusion into the Tennis Hall of Fame.

Richard and Oracene have met all the eligibility criteria:

• A true pioneer, visionary leader, or individual or group who has made a transcendent impact on the sport; — YES
• Either five years removed from committed work in tennis or at least 65 years of age; — YES
• Consideration will be given to integrity, sportsmanship, and character. YES

Since the Contributor Category is awarded to those who have made exceptional contributions that have furthered the growth, reputation, and character of the sport, if justice is to be served, there is no one more deserving for inclusion into the Class of 2021 Hall of Fame than Richard Williams.

Below is the list of accomplishments that Richard and Oracene have achieved:

They coached Serena Williams and Venus Williams who have gone on to achieve:

7x Australian Open (Serena)
3x French Open (Serena)
12x Wimbledon (Williams sisters)
8x US Open (Williams sisters)
2x Olympic Gold Medal (Williams sisters)
6x WTA Tour Championships (Williams sisters)
28x WTA Tier I/​Premier Mandatory/​Premier 5 (Williams sisters)
Career Golden Slam — Doubles (Williams sisters)
4x Australian Open (Williams sisters)
2x French Open (Williams sisters)
5x Wimbledon (Williams sisters)
2x US Open (Williams sisters)
3x Olympic Gold Medal
Fed Cup champions (Williams sisters)
2x Hopman Cup (Serena)

Nominators Names: Ahmed Sule & Mikeson

Writer and social critic

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