When Serena and Venus Williams entered the court today for their 31st meeting, the sisters both wore masks as they walked into a Kentucky venue without fans. A “Black Lives Matter” stencil decked out the wall behind the baseline, appearing prominently in photos and TV shots.
These were signs of the times as the nation continues to grapple with dual crises — the coronavirus pandemic and systemic racism.
Serena — wearing a attention-grabbing Nike tennis dress with pops of neon — battled to beat Venus in a three-set match, which was unlike any other they had ever played. When the final set was over, the best friends skipped their typical hugs in adherence to safety guidelines enacted amid the pandemic.
The match’s most important takeaways had nothing to do with the score.
The boundary-breaking sisters faced off during a historic week — when Kamala Harris made history as the first Black woman VP nominee on a major ticket. And they played on National Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. (Today’s date, Aug. 13. marks how far into the current year Black women had to work in order to catch up to what white men earned the year prior.)
Both Williams sisters have been fierce advocates for equal pay on and off the court. “The day I stop fighting for equality…will be the day I’m in my grave,” Serena said last year on court at Wimbledon, addressing controversial comments made by Billie Jean King that Williams should focus solely on winning tennis matches.
During one of America’s toughest summers in history, seeing Venus, 40, and Serena, 38, back on court together was a welcome distraction from heavier topics dominating the news cycle.
Serena plays again tomorrow, and the sisters are slated to participate in the US Open in New York later this month (sans fans). While it’s not clear when they might meet again, one thing is for sure: this sister act is unbeatable.