Foreword, Serena Williams | US Open: 50 Years of Championship Tennis

The US Open may have drawn to a close for another year but that doesn’t mean we have to stop indulging our inner tennis fan… and we have just the book for it.

Timed to coincide with the US Open’s 50th anniversary, this exquisitely produced book celebrates one of the most electrifying events in tennis. All of the key moments and unforgettable personalities from the competition’s 50-year history are brought to life by vibrant, exclusive photography. This book provides a comprehensive look at the tournament, from the early years of tennis legends such as Billie Jean King and Arthur Ashe to iconic players such as Roger Federer and Serena Williams. Original contributions from journalists, players, coaches and notable fans stand alongside gorgeous photography of the many household names who have made their mark competing on the game’s biggest stage. A perfect gift for any tennis fan, this book is a richly visual tribute to the sport, its fans and its champions.

And today, we’re delighted to give you a look at the inspirational and deeply personal foreword from the legendary Serena Williams.

The following is an extract of the foreword to US OPEN: 50 Years of Championship Tennis by the USTA with Richard S. Rennert, foreword by Serena Williams

Chris Trotman/GI/USTA

FOREWORD by Serena Williams


I started playing the sport at an early age with my parents and older sisters on the public courts near our home in Compton, California. We played all the time. It was our ritual. At first, we played for an hour or so a few days a week and pretty soon we were practicing for three or four hours every day. When we weren’t hitting on the court, my sisters and I liked to bat a tennis ball back and forth with our hands on the sidewalk in front of our home. We made a game of it called “Grand Slam,” pretending there was a major championship on the line.

It was the 1980s, and all across America tennis was riding a huge wave of popularity. When we weren’t practicing, we were watching tennis on television. I studied all of the game’s biggest names, especially the top women players – Monica Seles, Zina Garrison, and Steffi Graf. I was a young black girl in awe of their talent.

I played then—and still do now—simply for the love of tennis. What I love most about playing tennis is the person I’ve become because of it. It’s the kind of sport that pushes you to find confidence from within. It teaches you to problem-solve . . . it tests your physical strength and, most importantly, your emotional endurance. Every time you step on the court, you have to bring it. You have to show up, unafraid, with one goal in mind—to win. When you win a match, there’s always a next match. You have to keep working toward being better. You have to think bigger than record-breaking. You have to believe you’re the best in the game, and on the court you’ll find out where you stand. After countless hours of practicing and training, I look back on my child self and all the sacrifices I made with pride.

Just fifty years ago, the sport of tennis finally opened its doors to professional players—creating an economic shift that reinvigorated the game. It proved to be a renaissance that ushered in a tide of dramatic, positive change for the sport. Diversity, technology, and new audiences brought about a whole new level of competition. And that’s the game that brought me my first Grand Slam title at the US Open when I was seventeen years old.

Growing up, it was always my dream to win the US Open, my home Slam. The tournament, whose showcase matches are played at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York, is truly the world’s biggest stage for tennis. And you can feel its energy more than ever with such an iconic, inspiring city around you.

As special as the US Open is, it’s become more special over the years. There have been a number of gamechanging initiatives and innovations, such as instant replay technology, blue tennis courts and totally transformed grounds. I have great memories of playing in the first-ever, prime-time Grand Slam finals with my sister Venus. But what takes me back the most is the work up to this point. From sidewalk Slams to studying every facet of what makes a great tennis player, the US Open reminds me of that dedication and drive I found in myself early on. It’s where the best in tennis come to compete and set new standards of excellence, year after year. As someone who loves to play the sport as much as I do, you can’t ask for more than that in a game.

Darren Caroll/USTA

US OPEN: 50 Years of Championship Tennis is available now