When “King Richard,” a biopic based on their father’s life, hits theaters and HBO Max on November 19, 2021, fans of tennis’ reigning siblings will get an inside look at the tragic real-life story of Venus and Serena Williams and learn more about the man who made them tennis superstars — their father Richard Williams — Venus’ net worth and Serena’s bank account balance are as astounding as their history-making gameplay these days, but it wasn’t always so. According to Variety, the sisters come from poor beginnings and intend to share that story in “King Richard,” which they executive produce with Will Smith in the lead role. Despite the fact that Smith’s casting has triggered accusations of colorism, the film’s debut trailer has already generated a lot of favorable discussion. Smith gushed on Instagram that playing the tennis coach was “one of the greatest honors,” calling the film “the origin story for some REAL DEAL superheroes.”
So, who is Richard Williams the genuine article? According to Elle, the Louisiana native grew up picking cotton before migrating to Chicago and then California, where he married Oracene Price and began a family. Richard set out to turn his two girls become champions when they were born. If you’re curious about how this affected their connection, keep reading to learn more about Venus and Serena Williams’ father’s relationship.
Richard Williams started training his daughters when they were four years old, but he had huge hopes for Venus and Serena Williams even before that, as he told CTV in 2014. “A lot [of] people used to think I was crazy because I used to walk around with a sign that said, ‘Number 1 girls in the world,'” he revealed, revealing that he authored a “78-page manifesto” before they were born in which he mapped out his would-be daughters’ tennis dominance.
Why is tennis so popular? According to Richard’s 2014 book, “Black and White: The Way I See It” (via Daily News), he was watching television one Sunday when “a tennis match attracted my interest,” a moment that would forever affect his family.
He went on to say, “Actually, the contest was over.” “I’ll never forget standing there in awe as I watched the tournament director hand a $40,000 check to a 25-year-old Romanian professional tennis player named Virginia Ruzici for winning the event.” Richard couldn’t help but agree as he heard the announcer say, “That’s not bad for four days’ effort.” “I said to myself, without hesitation, ‘I’m going to have two kids and put them in tennis,'” he wrote. He was set when Venus Ebony Starr Williams was born in 1980 and Serena Jameka Williams was born in 1981. “I had my game as well as my ladies. It was time to assemble them “He came to a conclusion.
Richard Williams was certain that he could transform his daughters into tennis stars, but he knew it wouldn’t be easy. The young family settled in Compton, California, where local tennis coach Larry Ready said he’d see the girls sitting courtside with “rackets poking out out of their strollers” as their parents played. Venus and Serena Williams played “three or four hours a day” once they were old enough, but not before their father pushed thugs off the courts. He was so dedicated that despite having numerous fractured ribs and ten lost teeth as a result of an altercation, he refused to give up. Richard claimed in his biography, “Black and White: The Way I See It,” that “to this day, [I] wear my ‘toothlessness’ as a badge of courage.” He then returned to fight a gang’s boss, which he won. “It had taken two years and had nearly killed my body and psyche, but none of that mattered at the moment. The fact that the courts were ours was all that mattered “Richard reflected on his past experiences.
Before coming to Florida in 1991, the family played in Compton, and Serena remarked on how their father’s passion altered everything. “Sports have changed,” she once remarked (via NBC Sports). “It has altered the course of history. Who’d have guessed he’d raise two black kids to excel in a sport where African Americans have always struggled? Every time I stand out there, I imagine myself not being here unless someone had that vision for me.”
Richard Williams has always stood by his daughters, and this was never more clear than in 1995, when the Williams patriarch confronted an ABC News reporter who attempted to challenge Venus Williams’ self-confidence at the age of 14. Venus was asked if she felt she could win an upcoming match in the film, which was recently resurrected on Twitter. Venus would go on to become the first Black female player to achieve “best player in the world” title in 2002, according to Sports Illustrated. She declared, “I know I can beat her […] I’m really confident.” When the reporter asked why she could “say it so effortlessly,” the rising star replied, “Because I believe it.”
Richard stepped in at that moment and remarked, “What she said the first time, she stated it with such confidence, but you keep going on and on.” “This child going to be out there playing when your old a** and me going to be in the grave,” Venus’ father said, noting that they were “dealing with [the] image of a 14-year-old child.” He then went on to say, “Let her be a kid because you’re dealing with a small Black girl. She simply responded to you with a lot of assurance. That should be left alone!”
When it comes to his daughters, Richard also accused the press (via ESPN) of conducting “the worst media job that they have done on any human being in the world.”
Richard Williams didn’t simply teach Venus and Serena Williams how to play tennis; he also taught them essential life lessons that would benefit them for years. First and foremost, he instilled in his daughters the most important lesson his own mother, Julia Mae Williams, taught him: “You have to be harsh, tough, and strong,” he told CTV. According to The Guardian, he also approved “a hierarchy of values” that they’d never forget, in which tennis wasn’t the be-all and end-all. Richard taught “God first, family second, education third, business fourth, and then only tennis – some way back in fifth place,” according to the outlet.
Serena also paid attention to her father’s financial counsel. In 2020, she told Chase Chats (via People), “‘Athletes lose their money,’ my father used to say. He always stressed the significance of not squandering your money once you have it and not buying everything you see. That has stayed with me my entire life.” She also stated that she may have benefited from additional guidance. She admitted, “Honestly, I wish I had known more about banking and how it works.” “I didn’t realize that until much later, and I truly wish I had known that sooner so I could have put my money to work in different ways sooner and possibly better.”
According to History, when Venus Williams won her maiden Wimbledon title in 2000, she became the first Black woman to do it since Althea Gibson won two consecutive tournaments in 1957 and 1958. Richard Williams, her father, was probably the only one who was more excited than she was. According to the Daily Press, Richard made headlines throughout the game for putting up six different signs, including “The British fans are the best in the world” and “I need an ice-cold Coca-Cola.”
When his daughter won, he displayed a sign that read, “It’s Venus’ celebration, and no one is invited.” The fact that he apparently exclaimed “Straight outta Compton!” before jumping over the NBC television booth to execute “a victorious dance,” according to The Guardian, raised eyebrows. According to Deadline, commentators in the booth “thought the roof was coming down,” according to Chris Evert, a former tennis player turned commentator.
During a 2003 interview, Oprah Winfrey brought up the event with Venus, stating, “Your father has received some criticism […] are you ever embarrassed by your father?” “Nothing embarrasses us,” she insisted, adding that her father’s antics at Wimbledon were misread. “It wasn’t a dance — it was just written,” she explained.
“He was bouncing up and down. I’m quite proud of my father “Venus kept going. “He’s an incredible visionary,” Serena says, “and I think Serena and I knew it even when we were kids.”
Richard Williams was noticeably absent from America’s main tennis courts throughout the 2015 tennis season going up to the U.S. Open. According to the New York Post, Richard’s absence was due to health difficulties, as he was taken to the hospital in the spring for an unidentified reason and remained at home in Florida to recover (and watch his daughter play).
Serena Williams was aware of his absence and expressed it on several occasions. “I would like to dedicate this to my father, he’s not here,” she told reporters in Miami in April, according to The Guardian. “I miss him,” she continued, “and I hope he’s watching.” “I love you, daddy, and this one’s for you,” she added. “I do miss my father, certainly,” she said during a post-match press conference in August, referring to him as “the most significant person in my career.” I make numerous attempts to contact him. He still tells me what I’m doing wrong.” “Probably the best coach ever,” she said during a pre-Open press conference (via ESPN), adding, “If we speak about numbers, he’s had a lot of [Slam titles] and he’s only had two players.” Imagine what he’d be like if he had three!”
Serena Williams told Oprah Winfrey in 2003, “Our father is under-appreciated. “He stayed up many hours watching movies so he could teach us how to serve,” she claimed, adding, “and we have the biggest serves in women’s tennis.””
In November 2017, when Serena Williams married reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans, there was one thing noticeably missing from the ceremony. Or, to be more precise, one person. Richard Williams was meant to escort his daughter down the aisle, but he pulled out just one hour before the wedding, as she recounted in her HBO documentary “Being Serena.” She recalled, “He was in New Orleans, he was dressed up, and I know he was very happy” (via People). “But then he texted me, saying, ‘Serena, I don’t want you to be mad at me, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to walk you down the aisle.’ I’m not the same person I used to be. I’m just too frightened.'”
He didn’t want to walk with her, and she knew why. Serena acknowledged “the problems he’s had” over the years, noting that “maybe a lot of daughters wouldn’t react the same way.” “His health is improving now,” she continued, “but I know he still doesn’t feel like himself, like he’s perfect.” “And I absolutely understand if he doesn’t want to be out in front of so many people.”
She texted back, as instructed by the doctor: “It’s perfectly fine, Daddy, if you don’t want to attend the wedding at all. I’m not going to be angry with you over it, and I don’t want you to be angry either.” She ended by saying, “Our family is aware of our situation. All we want is for each other to be happy. That is what is important.”
Richard Williams was previously married to Betty Johnson, with whom he had five children, before marrying Oracene Price in 1980. Sabrina Williams, the eldest, spoke with The Sun in 2020 and claimed that while Venus and Serena Williams enjoy a close relationship with their father, she does not.
Accusing Richard of being a psychopath “”He’s not a parent, he was just a sperm donor,” she lashed, calling him a “serial cheat” and “selfish man” who “simply uses his kids to obtain what he needs.” He had five children and abandoned them to destitution, never once assisting them.” She described her early years as “wonderful,” but when her parents began bickering, “my dad went and said he was going to fetch a bike for me and that was the last I saw of him,” she added.
Sabrina told the source that she “got hold of my dad through a relative and begged for $1,000 to pay portion of the education fee at Hope Christian University,” recalling how “within a year, we became quite impoverished.” He allegedly presented it to Sabrina as a loan. “I knew he was an a****** at that point,” she stated, adding that she was “done” with him after that. She’s also been told he has “between 15 and 19 [kids] all over the place,” according to her.
Despite supposedly being in poor health, Richard Williams can’t stay away from tennis. He had two strokes in 2016, which he later admitted had a significant impact on his daily life. As Richard’s divorce battle with Lakeisha Williams heated up in 2020, his doctor told a court that he had suffered brain tissue damage and that “complications after the stroke included inability to remember things,” as well as weakened muscles and “problems speaking and finding the right word to use,” according to The Sun. While the doctor acknowledged that Richard “recovered from issues formulating your words,” they emphasized that their patient had not “recovered from what is known as dementia.”
Despite these major concerns, Richard appears to be incapable of refraining from instructing his children. Venus Williams shared a video on Instagram in July 2021 of herself practicing on a court with her father by her side, offering guidance. “The coaching legend is still at it,” as one Twitter user put it, and Venus verified as much when she wrote “Every practice!” in response to a tweet complimenting Richard for being “still at it 30+ years later.” She also replied with a simple “Always!” to a second admirer who wrote, “Love that he still trains with Vee!”
Just don’t expect him to be gentle with his ladies. Richard responded positively to a reporter’s question on Serena’s chances of winning Wimbledon in 2012, but couldn’t help but add, “I think she needs to make a few tiny adjustments.”
Serena and Venus Williams’ father, unsurprisingly, is a huge supporter of his famous daughters. “Richard Williams “often tells me I’m so talented and he’s so happy of me and he can’t imagine how wonderful I am,” Serena Williams reportedly remarked (via NBC Sports), adding, “He always says, ‘Don’t put pressure on yourself.'” ‘Be content with what you’ve got.'”
That’s exactly what he did before the 2012 Wimbledon Championships. Serena Williams was out of the sport for over a year before returning in mid-2011. According to USA Today, she sliced a tendon in her right foot in a bizarre accident in July 2010 after treading on shattered glass. She was “on my deathbed at one point – quite literally” in March 2011, according to The Guardian, after medics discovered “multiple blood clots in both lungs.”
“Just as Serena started to recuperate,” Richard recalled in his 2014 biography, “Black and White: The Way I See It,” “she acquired an infection in her stomach and had to have a drain tube put in to help her heal.” As a result, he was concerned about Wimbledon and advised her to “forget about winning or losing the event.” Rather, he remarked, “You put your best foot forward when you get out there. Put the other foot forward, not the one you chopped up.” As “tears coursed freely down my cheeks and I didn’t care who saw them,” Richard felt “glory beyond measure” as Serena won. The Williams family has a lot of love — and we don’t mean a goose egg.