Venus Williams, a 17-year-old tennis star from Florida, on Sunday became the first African American women to play in the U.S. Open Women’s Singles Final in 39 years. Williams follows Althea Gibson, who in 1957 became the first African American woman to play in the prestigious tournament final. Gibson won the U.S. Open two years in a row, in 1957 and 1958.
Although Williams lost her match on Sunday against top-seeded Martina Hingis, she won a great victory for people of color in a sport that is largely considered white and upper-middle class. Many speculate that Williams might become a “Tiger Woods of tennis,” by stirring up new interest in the sport and by serving as a role model for young African American women.