Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff, Serena Williams, Qiang Wang, Kristie Ahn.
Those were just some of the women who took the world stage over the Labor Day weekend in the 2019 U.S. Open—Women’s Singles.
They are all women of color.
Forbes.com asked if the rising wave of young women of color was influenced by Serena Williams and her older sister Venus, who have combined to win 30 Grand Slam singles titles.
Serena said, “Well, I can’t be presumptuous and say that’s because of me. I think it’s because of these young women and their parents and coaches want them to do something amazing. I think tennis is a great sport for females and it’s a great way to showcase your personality, be yourself, make a great living, and still do something that you absolutely love.”
Long before Serena Williams, there was Althea Gibson. She was the first Black person to win a Grand Slam title and the first Black person to win at Wimbledon. A sculpture honoring Gibson was unveiled on Aug. 26, at the start of the 2019 U.S. Open.
The first Asian American to make a Grand Slam round of 16 since 2000 was Ahn, who is of Korean descent. Her U.S. Open run came to an end on Sept. 2.
In an interview before the tournament, she spoke about representation in the sport.
“This is why I play: to hopefully reach out to…Asian Americans,” Ahn said. She first played in the U.S. Open 11 years ago, and between now and then, her parents asked her to consider putting down her tennis racket, and focus on her studies.
Ahn insists, you can have both. “You can have the education, keep your parents happy, but also be able to have your own ambitions and go for it.”
Then there was the heartwarming show of sportsmanship between Gauff and Osaka.
Gauff, 15, was in tears after Osaka beat her. Osaka, only 21 herself, approached her opponent and encouraged her to do the post-match interview with her—an honor usually reserved solely for the winner.
“You guys raised an amazing player,” Osaka said in the post-match interview, addressing Gauff’s parents. “The fact that both of us made it, and we’re both still working as hard as we can, I think it’s incredible, and I think you guys are amazing. I think, Coco, you’re amazing,” Osaka said.
It was just a year ago when the crowd booed after Osaka beat her idol, Williams. In that instance, Williams was the one building up Osaka.
Classy, great sportsmanship, and many women of color on center stage. Certainly a tournament to remember.