A series of five portraits featuring women who redefined our sport.

Their influence reached far beyond center court. Empowering generations of female athletes to define their own voice and combat gender stereotypes.

Curated by : Caitlin Thompson, Publisher of Racquet, an award winning print magazine and media company

It’s hard to add to the conversation highlighting the importance of the Williams sisters, so instead I’ll hearken back to the world as it was when they started their journey, famously, on public courts in Compton, California. Few women of colour were playing on tour, much less revered at the top of the game as champions such as Althea Gibson. Until Serena won the US Open at age 19 in 1999, many celebrated women of colour such as Kat Adams, Lori McNeill and Zina Garrison had taken the court, but none had won a singles slam title. That Venus notched seven singles titles and that Serena sits with the most of the Open Era (and one ahead of Nadal’s 22) at 23 says everything you need to know about their on-court dominance. 

That Venus first played at a Wimbledon where women and men were not afforded equal pay before writing an Op Ed in the Times of London and testifying in front of the All England Club’s board hours before winning her first of five titles theres  is a testament to her legacy as an athlete but also an activist. That few athletes had much say over the terms of their brand endorsements, much less became big enough brands themselves to start venture capital funds, becoming the highest-paid female athlete in the world along the way as Serena has done tells you how much they’ve changed all of sports, not just tennis. 

That Venus and Serena are both on the precipice of retirement at age 42 and 40, respectively, and the world of tennis is preemptively hand wringing at the absence of their stardom of the sport is an indication of how in the past 25 years they went from outsiders criticized for their family, their hair, their style of play to two names bigger than tennis itself tells you how they changed the world.

The women trailblazers in tennis series is the latest feature of the gender equity program. 

Tennis Canada and National Bank have partnered to create meaningful actions and change for gender equity in tennis.

The aim of the program is to create opportunities for women and girls in tennis, encouraging them to continue playing and enticing even more to pick up a racquet, become life-long participants, coaches, officials, and professionals, and reap the benefits of an active lifestyle and personal growth through sport.

For more information, go to https://www.tenniscanada.com/girls/