Streaming Spotlight by Cindy Summers
King Richard – HBO Max
King Richard chronicles the rise of Venus and Serena Williams to tennis elites, at one time being ranked No.1 and No. 2 in the world of tennis, all due to the plan their father’s grand plan.
Richard Williams (Will Smith) started coaching them from a very young age on the neglected tennis courts of Compton rain or shine to develop their skills to a level in which he was able to seek out funding and to find a professional coach that would take them on for nothing. King Richard (as he was come to be known in the Compton neighborhoods) was able to get the attention of pro tennis coach Paul Cohen (Tony Goldwyn)
Cohen coached well-known players like John McEnroe and Pete Sampras, and after seeing both girls play he agreed to take on Venus (Saniyya Sidney), but didn’t feel that Serena (Demi Singleton) was ready. While Venus was coached by Cohen, Serena’s mother Brandy Williams (Aunjanue Ellis) worked with Serena to strengthen her skills. The family had 5 girls total, including Richard’s 3 stepdaughters, who were all very close and supported of each other.
Cohen convinced Richard to have Venus play in juniors tournaments, the traditional pathway to going pro, and Venus was 63-0 in her first season. Richard wanted his daughters to be respectful and practice modesty, and was constantly on them to manage their pride and egos, especially as Venus was quickly seen as unbeatable. Though she was playing great and winning all her matches, Richard decided to pull Venus from the juniors after only one year and stopped working with Cohen after a meeting that went wrong with some investors Cohen had lined up.
Richard was even more convinced of Venus’ ability to go pro, so looked for a new coach and the means to follow their dreams. He reached out to Coach Rick Macci, who coached players like Jennifer Capriati and had a training facility in Florida, and convinced Macci to come to California to see Venus and Serena. Macci agreed to coach Venus and move the family to Florida.
Richard decided to remove Venus from any tournament play for the next several years and only practice with pros, focus on studies and have childhood fun. Once the whole family relocated to Florida, he shared this with Coach Macci who was stunned, feeling duped and quite confused how to move forward but went along with Richard’s unrelenting commitment to his plan. Though it was hard for Serena, Richard told her that though he knew Venus was eventually be No.1, that Serena would be the greatest ever.
Venus improved significantly over the next few years, and at 15 years old Coach Macci felt she was unquestionably ready to play a pro tournament, suggesting the upcoming Bank of the West tournament in Oakland. Though Richard had his reservations. he eventually allowed Venus to play after asking her personally if she felt ready. Coach Macci found a sponsor willing to offer a $3 million dollar if they would sign the contract before the tournament.
When asked, Venus decided to pass on the contract and see what offers could come after her first tournament in years. Venus played well and ended up in the finals on the main court with Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, the No.1 ranked player at the time. Though she didn’t win, she became known to the world and 9 months later signed a $12 million dollar contract with Reebok.
Venus went on the win Wimbleton five times, and two years later Serena joined Venus on tour becoming a 23-time Grand Slam champion and considered perhaps the greatest player in tennis history, just as Richard predicted.
Runtime: 2h 26m