Sisters Venus and Serena Williams sat down with the New York Times to reminisce about their childhood recently. The siblings were raised in Compton, Calif., at the height of the town’s gang violence, which claimed the life of their eldest sister, Yetunde. The in-depth profiles discusses their early training and a videotape in which Serena toddles around the court while Venus, the older of the two, hit balls with their parents.
With Venus and Serena, Oracene said, “it’s almost like they were raised on the court.” She remembers Serena as a toddler, off to the side while they played. Oracene noticed early that something was different about their game. “They still weren’t as athletic as me,” she said — a thing you learn quickly about Oracene is that she says exactly what she means and never says anything she doesn’t mean, to a degree that can be intimidating and even seem aggressive until you realize that it isn’t negatively charged, she’s just very unto herself — “but I did notice one thing: they had a natural swing. That’s what I looked for first.” She didn’t elaborate on that, but I knew what she meant — the pop. It was the unquantifiable kinesiology of the pop. These two new daughters had it. (Richard would later claim that they were engineered for it, by an express and all but eugenical logic — he saw Oracene’s long, powerful gams and thought they would make great legs for a tennis player. Jehovah God knows if these things are true, but unlike the sturdy-tree story, it feels like something he might have thought.)
Richard and Oracene had become uncannily expert, if unavoidably eccentric, tennis coaches and analysts by the time Venus and Serena started hitting. Indeed, behind the minor miracle of there being two tennis virtuosos in this single family with no previous tennis background, there had been the previous miracle of both parents’ understanding the game well enough to teach and guide the girls. “I don’t honestly know how that happened,” Venus told me in Cincinnati. “It’s interesting. I don’t know how my parents were able to learn the game so well.”
Read more at the New York Times.