First it was Venus and Serena. Now there is an exciting new wave of tennis players entering the game while keeping it all in the family
When Venus and Serena Williams burst onto the scene in the 1990s they changed tennis forever. Not only were they different from an aesthetic standpoint – two black girls with bead-braided hair in a predominantly white sport – they were sisters.
Both have gone on to make history in the game, shattering records and breaking down barriers along the way. Their impact, not just in the sport of tennis, but the world of sport, has been monumental.
Thanks in large part to Venus and Serena, who were both introduced to tennis by their father Richard Williams, who also coached the pair during their formative years on the WTA Tour, we are beginning to see more and more sibling acts in the game today.
Here, we profile a few who are currently making waves.
Mikael (below, right) and Elias Ymer of Sweden are both professionals on the ATP Tour. The Scandinavian-born brothers, with Ethiopian roots, are currently the highest ranked men in Swedish tennis and have already had ATP doubles success, winning the Stockholm title in 2016.
Younger brother Mikael, 21, made his top 100 debut in 2019 after winning four ATP Challenger events. He also made his Grand Slam main draw debut at Roland Garros that year and reached the second round. Mikael, who became the first Swede to crack the top 100 since 2012, topped off an excellent year at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.
Elias, 23, has struggled with injuries in recent times. During the 2015 season, his first full year on the tour, Elias made history by becoming only the second man in the open era to qualify for all four Grand Slams. Elias had only one ATP main draw win to his name in 2019 and spent most of the year on the Challenger circuit, getting to the latter stages of events in Lyon, Hamburg and Helsinki among others.
The world was introduced to Naomi Osaka (below, left) in 2018, her breakthrough year, which included that famous win over her “tennis mom” Serena in the US Open final. That was also the year Naomi won the Indian Wells title, her first WTA crown, and she went on to finish the season ranked number five in the world.
The then 21-year-old secured world number one status after winning the Australian Open in 2019, becoming the first player from Japan to achieve that feat. She went on to win titles in the city of her birth, Osaka, and also in Beijing to round off the year.
Naomi followed the footsteps of big sister Mari who made her WTA main draw debut at the 2019 Miami Open. Currently ranked 326 in the world, the 24-year-old has spent the majority of her career on the ITF circuit. The sisters, who have not played each other since 2014, share a 1-1 head-to-head record.
Gael and Maelie Monfils
Gael Monfils won it all as a junior. In 2004, at just 17, the Frenchman won three of the four junior slams – Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon – and finished the season as the junior world number one.
The 33-year-old has gone on to establish himself inside the top 10 and is easily one of the most popular guys on the tour. Monfils, currently ranked number nine in the world, started 2020 with a 16-3 record. He also won back-to-back tournaments for the first time in his career, adding to the eight ATP titles he already had.
Another Monfils we should watch out for is Gael’s 15-year-old sister, Maelie. Currently ranked 354 in the junior world rankings, Maelie already has two ITF junior titles to her name after winning in Abidjan, Ivory Coast and Kelibia, Tunisia in 2019.
She started the 2020 season brightly, reaching at least the quarter-final stage or better in three out of the five tournaments she entered. Big bro Gael has said that while he doesn’t want to put any pressure on Maelie, he can see “she’s passionate” and “wants to make it”.
Tennis rules in the Clarke household. Older sister Yasmin, a former British junior number one, introduced Jay (below, centre) to the game and the 21-year-old was briefly coached by his dad before big brother Curtis took over the reins.
Jay made his ATP Tour debut in 2018 at Queen’s and was already a four-time ITF Futures champion. He also made it all the way to the Wimbledon mixed doubles semi-final that same year.
Currently ranked 167 in the world, Jay, who has spent most of his time to date on the Challenger circuit, has won two titles – his latest coming in Anning, China in 2019, the same year he secured his first ever singles main draw win at Wimbledon. Expect to see the British number five crack the top 100 in the very near future.