Serena Williams’ announcement Monday that she’s retiring from playing tennis hit home at D.C.’s Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, where the champion and her fellow-champion sister, Venus, have inspired thousands of kids to take up tennis.
Since its founding in 2001, hundreds of boys and girls who learned the game at the Ward 8 facility have been awarded college tennis scholarships.
The sisters have been so consequential to the center, which offers tennis for all ages and educational opportunities for young people, that there is a bronze statue of them in a display case at the facility.
“Her retirement is bittersweet, of course. You always hate to see the greats leave the main stage, but her impact will last forever. She will always be the person everyone else is compared to,” said Cora Masters Barry, the founder of the center and the widow of former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry.
Serena and Venus Williams have family ties to D.C. Their sister Isha Price, a Howard University graduate, is a D.C. resident and a longtime supporter of the tennis center.
Their niece, Justus Bobbitt, also a graduate of Howard University, is the director of the SETLC. She’s the daughter of the Williams’ late sister Yetunde Price.
“Her game was so wonderful, so powerful, so colorful, so skilled, so smart that she’s going to leave a hole that will never be replaced,” Masters Barry said.