With sporting superstardom comes fame, wealth and widespread influence. Off the court, these can be harnessed to help make a difference to some of the issues that plague our world. Here are four philanthropic tennis legends who continue to inspire us every day with their generosity and contribution to society.
In 1994, 12 years before he retired from professional tennis, Andre Agassi founded the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education. Dedicated to transforming education and creating opportunities for children, it provides underprivileged youth in Las Vegaswith K-12 schooling. Having sacrificed his own education growing up in Las Vegasfor a career in tennis, Agassi has always maintained a strong belief in the value of education. In spite of everything he achieved on the court, he felt that tennis was all he knew and always valued the freedom education offered. Twelve years ago the Foundation opened The Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, and to this day continues to advocate increasing investment and accountability in public schools nationwide. Dubbed the best service returner in the game, Agassi now offers an even bigger service – making a difference to the lives of so many disadvantaged children in the United States. agassifoundation.org
Billie Jean King
A trailblazer throughout her sporting career, Billie Jean King changed the course of women’s tennis and has spent her post-tennis career championing social equality for the LGBTQ community. At the peak of her playing career in 1973, King founded the Women’s Tennis Association, striving to bring women’s tennis on par with men’s tennis. That same year she successfully campaigned to award female players the same prize money in the US Open as men – and every other major tournament has since followed her lead. King serves on the board of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the National AIDS Fund and the Women’s Sports Foundation. Named by Life magazine as one of the 100 most important Americans of the 20th century, King is a true champion in every sense of the word.
For current champion Novak Djokovic, striking while the iron’s hot is a vital part of his philanthropic strategy. Ramping up his charitable efforts while at the peak of his game, Djokovic wanted to start while he was young and still held the world’s attention. Describing his upbringing in war-torn Serbiaas a place where many kids didn’t dare to dream big, he hopes the Novak Djokovic Foundation will turn this around and help the children of Serbiafulfil their dreams. The Foundation’s mission is to help decrease poverty and the sense of social exclusion that prevails in Serbia, while raising awareness of the low enrolment rates in pre-school education. Hosting a star-studded benefit in New Yorkjust one day after losing the 2013 US Open final to Rafael Nadal, Djokovic raised $2.5 million for the cause. novakdjokovicfoundation.org
On court she’s known for her powerful serve and fighting spirit, but off court Serena Williams has a heart bigger than centre court. The Serena Williams Foundation was set up to achieve two goals – assist youth whose parents and families have been affected by violent crimes and help underprivileged children around the world receive an education. After travelling through Africa and feeling a growing sense of duty to lend a hand, Williams established two schools in Kenya, The Serena Williams Secondary School and the WeeSecondary School. In 2011 she was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and she continues to support UNICEF’s mission to provide a quality education to vulnerable children. Acknowledging what education has helped her achieve in life and business, she is passionate about offering children the same opportunities and a chance for a brighter future. theswf.org