The Truth About Serena And Venus Williams' Relationship

Serena and Venus Williams are quite likely the greatest tennis players of all time, but before that, they were two sisters growing up in Compton, California with their mom, dad, and three older siblings. The relationship between the two women has been documented in countless books, biographies, and articles, and their life and training before becoming professional athletes was fictionalized in the 2021 movie "King Richard."

The two sisters have been playing professional tennis since 1994 (Venus) and 1995 (Serena). Since then, they have meant so much to so many people. For some, as Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote in her 2022 piece on the sisters for Harper's Bazaar, they represent "archetypes of the kind of deep kinship ties that are central to the Black American experience." 

At the heart of the Serena and Venus Williams story is a tale of two sisters who are closer to one another than they are to anyone else. Here is a look inside the relationship between Serena and Venus Williams, and at how that relationship has grown, matured, and evolved as they became professional athletes and women.

Venus and Serena Williams' father planned their tennis careers before they were born

Many fans of Venus and Serena Williams know that their father Richard Williams began training each of the girls in tennis when they were only 4 years old. However, it turns out that Richard had a plan for his daughters that was hatched well before they were born. As noted by CTV News, Richard Williams famously put together a 78-page manifesto that laid out the path his daughters needed to take to tennis superstardom.

As Richard once explained, he was celebrating Venus and Serena before they were born. He said, "Before they were born, a lot of people used to think I was crazy because I used to walk around with a sign, 'No. 1 girls in the world' — so my expectations of my girls grew and grew" (via CTV News).

Richard credited his mother with his own motivation toward success. As he put it, his mother taught him to expect a lot from himself, which in turn taught him how to approach others. He said, "I've learned that when you expect a lot from yourself, you tend to expect a hell of a lot from other people."

Serena Williams says Venus Williams is her benevolent bodyguard

To say Venus and Serena Williams are close is an understatement. Serena details her relationship with her sisters in her 2009 autobiography "Queen of the Court," and an excerpt was read aloud by Chanda Rubin when Serena was interviewed for the podcast "The GOAT: Serena Williams" in 2021. In the book, Serena described her sisters lovingly and ascribes a major title to her older sister, Venus. She wrote, "Yetunde was the forgiver with a heart of gold, Isha was the caretaker who looked after all her sisters. Lyndrea was the ever-ready play pal. I'm not sure how others saw Venus. But to me, she was like a benevolent bodyguard."

Serena played her last professional match in September 2022, and her sister Venus was one of the first people she thanked at the conclusion of her incredible career. During a post-match interview, instead of looking back on how she played, Serena focused on expressing how important her family members are to her. Of older sister Venus, she said, "I wouldn't be Serena if there wasn't Venus, so thank you, Venus. She's the only reason that Serena Williams ever existed" (via People).

Serena and Venus grew up with 3 siblings and have a total of 9

Serena and Venus Williams have a large family. In fact, the two sisters have a total of nine siblings, including the three they were raised with. Their mother, Oracene Price, was married to Yusef Rasheed before she married Richard Williams, and she had three daughters with her first husband (via Showbiz Cheatsheet).

Serena and Venus grew up with their sisters Yetunde, Lyndrea, and Isha Price in Compton, California. The family lost Yetunde in 2003 when she was killed in a drive-by shooting, and Serena told Harper's Bazaar that her young daughter was particularly attracted to the portrayal of Yetunde in the family's film "King Richard." She explained that "it was really more about her saying to me, 'Tunde.' She never met my eldest sister. She says she understands that Tunde isn't around. That was interesting for me in a sad way, but she at least knows her a little bit better."

Richard Williams has five children in addition to Venus and Serena. They are sons Richard Williams III, Ronner Williams, and Dylan Star Williams and daughters Sabrina Deville and Chavoita LeSane (via Showbiz Cheatsheet).

Venus admires Serena's competitiveness

There's no denying that Venus and Serena Williams are two of the most talented tennis players of all time — if not the most talented. The two grew up playing with and against one another, and Venus Williams told Harper's Bazaar that it was tempting for outsiders to try to count Serena out early on in their tennis journey. As Venus explained, others hoped to put limitations on Serena that she herself would not let stand. Venus said, "Usually in one family, there's one good player and then the other one is not that great. And I think people told Serena she wouldn't be great."

Fortunately, Serena Williams has a competitive edge and strong will, and no one knows that as much as her older sister. Venus added that her sister is fearless, which is something that has always impressed her. "She doesn't accept second," Venus said. "She explicitly told me herself that she plays for first place" (via Harper's Bazaar).

The sisters say they are each other's hero

While promoting their movie "King Richard," Venus and Serena Williams were interviewed frequently about their relationship. In one interview with People (the TV Show)'s Kay Adams, Venus poured on the praise for her younger sister (via People). As she put it, they are incredibly important to one another. "I think we're each other's hero," she said. "She's my ... everything in that sense. And she's the best younger sister you could ever have. She's so protective. And I learned so much from her on [and] off the court."

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly (via Sportskeeda), Serena similarly praised her sister. "[Venus] was my hero and she still is my hero," Serena said. "She'll do something and I'm like, 'I'm doing that, too.' She's still my hero, she really was able to open the way for me and go through doors."

King Richard tells the story of how Venus and Serena became tennis legends

The 2021 movie "King Richard" made major waves domestically and internationally, and for good reason. The film chronicles the path Venus and Serena Williams took toward tennis superstardom under the tutelage of their father, Richard Williams — and it does so in a way that keeps the Williams family at its core. As Serena told Harper's Bazaar of the film, "This isn't a movie about tennis. This is a movie about family."

Venus echoed this idea in an interview with People's Kay Adams. While speaking on People (the TV Show!), Venus explained that the movie is about so much more than tennis or a game, and that the film managed to capture an innocence that she feels she and her family still cling to. As Venus put it, "It's kind of difficult for me to say, 'Oh, this film shows me.' Because me is Serena. Me is my sisters. And there's no me without her."

Serena always wanted to copy Venus when they were young

As the youngest sister, Serena Williams had a lot of people to look up to in the Price-Williams household. It's not surprising that she was often inspired by her older sister Venus, even to the point of trying to copy everything her sister did. In the 2012 documentary "Venus and Serena," the youngest Williams sister happily admitted to wanting to do and be everything Venus was. As she said, "I mean, her favorite color was my favorite color, her favorite animal was my favorite animal, she wanted to win Wimbledon, I wanted to win Wimbledon" (via Biography).

In May 2020, Venus joked to Today that the sisters have a codependent relationship, and explained that this dynamic from their childhood carried on into adulthood. As she put it, as adults, the copying goes both ways. Venus said, "Serena still copies everything that I do, but I also copy everything that she does."

Venus and Serena Williams shared a home in Florida

In 1998, Venus and Serena Williams bought a one-acre property in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida for $525,000. They spent the next two years building their very own house together, ultimately coming up with a six-bedroom, seven-bathroom, 8,500-square-foot mansion that they soon called home. The pair lived together until 2013, when Serena bought her first solo property in the same city. She moved into a second home in 2015, and Venus lived in the pair's first home until the sisters decided to put it on the market in 2018 (per Mansion Global).

The home is certainly impressive. As reported by Dirt, the second floor of the home contains its own wing with four bedrooms and a den, while each sister had her own wing with its own master bedroom. The home also has a small theater, a massive gym, and a pool and spa.

The sisters had their own tennis newsletter

When Venus and Serena Williams were teenagers, they undertook quite a few impressive feats. One of these involved reporting and commenting on the sport they both loved. As shared by Slate in 2015, the Williams sisters created their own newsletter in 1998 called "Tennis Monthly Recap." The newsletter existed before just anyone could hop online and write a blog post about their favorite topic, and it was packed with news stories about some of tennis' biggest names, like Steffi Graf.

Per Slate, the newsletter gave readers a look into what the lives of two budding tennis professionals were really like. The outlet described the publication as "at once playful yet professional, whimsical yet comprehensive, fluffy yet substantive." The pair first handed out their newsletter when they were still teens at the Australian Open, where Serena explained that Venus came up with the idea. As she said, "It was her idea and we just grew it. Now it's getting pretty big. Too big." Eventually, the two sisters had to shutter the newsletter completely.

Serena and Venus Williams were the first Black women to own part of a football team

In 2009, Serena and Venus Williams announced their intention to buy part of the Miami Dolphins football team. The sisters joined Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez as part owners of the team, a move that was part of a larger plan crafted by the Dolphins to bring in celebrity ownership (per the Bleacher Report).

The sisters were on hand to visit the Dolphins complex in August 2009. Venus explained to ESPN that the team and location were important to them because Florida is their home. As she put it, "To have this opportunity is really where our heart is. We're South Florida girls. When we get off the road, this is where we come home to. When we come home to Dolphins games, it's going to be exciting." Venus added that the sisters enjoyed attending the games, especially since football and tennis are two very different sports. 

The sisters broke new ground when they bought into the team, as at the time, the NFL had no Black majority owners, and the Williams sisters were the first female Black owners in the league.

Venus Williams is the toughest player Serena Williams has faced

Despite the fact that Serena Williams has bested the top names in tennis from around the world, she's consistently said that one person is better than them all, and is her toughest competition: her sister, Venus Williams. In an interview with ESPN following her victory over Venus at the 2015 U.S. Open, Serena explained, "She's the toughest player I ever played in my life, and the best person I know. So it's going against your best friend and going against, for me, the greatest competitor in women's tennis."

Serena was able to best her sister in 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 sets, though it was clear that the game was emotional for both girls. As ESPN noted at the time, it appeared that Serena was fighting tears at different points throughout the face-off. While Serena has a victory edge over her sister Venus, she told CNN ahead of the U.S. Open that her sister was "the only player in the draw I don't want to play, not only because she's my sister, but for me, she's the best player."

Serena Williams says Venus Williams is a great aunt

Serena Williams gave birth to her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. in 2017, and has been open about how much she enjoys motherhood and also what a great aunt her sister Venus Williams is. While speaking to Today Parents at the 2019 Palace Invitational at Lotte New York Palace, Serena explained of Aunt Venus, "She's great. None of us grew up! We're all just a bunch of kids having fun."

Venus also explained that motherhood didn't change Serena — and it certainly didn't change the relationship the two sisters share. As Venus put it, "Our relationship was already spectacular, so nothing had to change" (via Today Parents).

While Serena was clear that motherhood has added joy to her life, it sounded like becoming an aunt has been a positive boost for Venus as well. Venus also added that her niece makes being an aunt a joy. As she put it, "(Olympia is) cute. So, I have great bragging rights."

The sisters had an online workout series during the pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic literally shut down the world and forced many of us to spend extended time at home — and professional tennis tournaments were put on hold for several months — Serena and Venus Williams took the opportunity to innovate and offer more to people around the world.

In a series of Instagram Live videos, the two came together to chat about the pandemic and tennis, and to offer a yoga series to anyone watching. In one video, Serena explained that the pandemic had some positive impacts on her typically intense schedule. As she said, "I really look forward to getting back on the court. It's what I do best. I absolutely love playing. But this break is ... a necessary evil. ... I felt like my body needed it, even though I didn't want it" (via NBC News).

From there, the pair each hopped on a yoga mat to begin the same series, though Venus offered a few modifications that she encouraged others to try as needed. The goal was to offer a little respite to fans watching from home, and to help them feel a sense of connectedness despite the period of isolation.