Use these discussion questions to guide your next meeting.


The days of tennis as a country club sport for the aristocracy have long passed, as have the pre–Open era days when black players faced long odds just to be invited to the four Grand Slam events. An entire generation of sports fans has grown up seeing Venus and Serena Williams as the gold standard in American professional tennis.


Although the Williams sisters have done more than any other players to make tennis accessible to a diverse population, it’s not as if the tennis revolution is over. When you watch tennis next, take a close look at the umpire, the person sitting in the high chair of authority at courtside. Look at the tournament referee and the tournament director, the officials who run the tournament. In those seats of power and influence, blacks are still woefully underrepresented.


Different Strokes chronicles the rise of the Williams sisters, as well as other champions of color, closely examining how African Americans are collectively faring in tennis, on the court and off. Despite the success of the Williams sisters and the election of former pro player Katrina Adams as the U.S. Tennis Association’s first black president, top black players still receive racist messages via social media and sometimes in public. The reality is that while significant progress has been made in the sport, much work remains before anything resembling equality is achieved.


How important has family been to the phenomenal success of the Williams sisters?

Althea Gibson was the first black major tennis champion. Arthur Ashe was the second, a decade after Gibson. Gibson won 11 major titles in singles and doubles. Ashe won five. Why is Ashe far better known today than Gibson?

While Venus and Serena Williams have revolutionized women's tennis, no black male has won a major tennis title since 1983 (Yannick Noah, French Open). Where are the factors that make tennis less appealing to black males?