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King Richard: The Story Behind the Rise of the Williams Sisters

King Richard is a biopic drama that focuses on the rise of sports’ two greatest athletes, Venus and Serena Williams, from the viewpoint of their father, Richard Williams. The film closely follows the girls’ tennis origins by mainly focusing on Richard and his coaching that created two of the best tennis players of all time. While the film has various twists from the sisters’ true story for dramatization purposes, the film mainly reveals the discriminatory struggles faced by both the sisters and their father while rising up in the tennis world.

The film opens with Richard Williams, played by Will Smith, promoting his daughters’ playing level to different coaches to get them better training to prepare for the bigger tennis tournaments. This opening sequence shows the audience Richard’s determination to ensure his daughters rise to the top no matter the struggle, even if it means getting beaten up multiple times. He was regularly beaten up in front of his daughters and once even brought a shotgun to the tennis courts to scare away gang members. Richard Williams was a man who devoted everything to the game, and most of his determination in the film is true. King Richard does well to show a father who wants to do right by his daughters no matter the cost.

Venus and Serena’s rise began when they were teenagers. While they quickly gained fame both on and off the court for their incredible skill, they were also subjected to harsh criticism stemming from racism and sexism. Both women have faced negative commentary on their body and body language while playing on the court for decades. The film shows the origins of some of the prejudices the girls faced at a young age when a scene showed Richard defending Venus from a nosy journalist during an interview. This was based on true interactions both sisters faced when they were starting to play on the WTA tour. A few journalists would attempt to pry into the sisters’ personal lives and backgrounds, prompting Richard to step in and stop the interviews.

While the film is a heartwarming tale of a hero’s rise, it also does not shy away from the more realistic struggles faced by the said hero. For example, scenes where the sisters’ mother, Oracene, points out Richard’s flaws in his stubbornness and overbearing nature on their daughters. Some might think this too much for an uplifting sports tale; however, it provides a raw, less glorified image of Richard Williams: a determined man who coached his daughters to the top, but also one who had many failings as a father.

The film encompasses the emotions and driven character personalities of a classic sports drama. However, by following the perspective of the athlete’s coach and father, the audience gets a new, refreshing take on the sport. They see a father who refused to be talked down to by coaches, agents and other prominent white men of the tennis world. They see a man who believes in lessons and morality, raising his daughters to be humble, organized and calculated in the game. They see a black man trying to raise his black daughters to be successful in a predominantly white sport.

Megha is currently a second year global studies major and film minor at UCLA. When she's not writing, she loves painting, photography, graphic design, and jewelry making.
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