I. Introduction: Tennis as "Just a Game"
II. Advancing Equality and Equal Opportunity
1. Richard "Pancho" Gonzalez (Man with a Racket)
2. Arthur Ashe (Citizen of the World)
3. Billie Jean King (Queen of Tennis and Social Change)
III. Promoting Social Causes and Combatting Societal Problems
IV. Conclusion: Tennis as More than a Game
*Advance equality and equal opportunity
*Promote social causes and combat societal problems
Gonzalez was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1968. Today, the Richard Pancho Gonzalez Youth Foundation carries on the work of developing tennis youth in his name.
Building on the trailblazing examples of Gonzalez, Ashe and King, tennis has evolved into a new phenomenon. Today, players often use their tennis voice and platform to help serve as a vehicle for social change.
One example is Serena Williams, 23 time Grand Slam champion, who has consistently supported the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement which seeks to uplift the lives of young African-American men and others.
In October 2015, Serena wrote: "So to those of you involved in equality movements such as BLM, I say this: Keep it up! We can keep working even more to increase equality."
Today, the Serena Ventures Fund offers more than $100 million in venture capital to support qualifying minority and women start-up businesses and help level the playing field.
Along those lines, 4 time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka at the 2020 U.S. Open highlighted episodes of recent racial injustice. She wore Covid masks showcasing the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others. Osaka commented: "I'm a vessel to spread awareness." And she carried that message long after she won the championship that year.
Moving on higher, other Global Challenges such as addressing Climate Change and standing up for Peace and against War have been championed by many players and groups in the tennis community.
For instance, Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem and many others have voiced and warned about the issue of Climate Change, the accelerating danger to our planet from extreme weather arising from carbon emissions.
Djokovic, and the four Grand Slam Championships, have supported various efforts to combat climate change, including the U.N.'s "Sports for Climate Change Action". This global program advocates an environmentally-friendly lifestyle, in a bold effort to save the Earth for the next generation.
Meanwhile, peace and war issues became urgent after the Russian invasion into Ukraine in February 2022. World Number one Daniil Medvedev of Russia stood up for Peace and against violent conflict, explaining that "tennis sometimes is not that important" and "by being a tennis player, I want to promote peace all over the world."
World Number five and fellow Russian Andrey Rublev added his voice to the Anti-War cause and remarked: "You realize how important it is to have peace in the world and to respect each other no matter what and to be united."
Beyond simply voicing causes, the tennis community collectively has done even more: it has raised money, recruited resources and helped build solutions to societal problems. For example, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2005, the ATP, WTA and others rallied to raise funds for disaster relief. Players auctioned off signed rackets, donated part of their winnings and and staged charity matches.
The same happened again many times such as after the disasters of: the Japan Earthquake in 2011, the Australian Wildfires in early 2020, the Global Pandemic in 2020-21, and the Ukraine-Russia war of 2022. In this way and over the years, the tennis community has secured millions of dollars and other massive disaster assistance after tragedy.