Venus Williams competing in Chicago Women's Open at XS Tennis

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Tennis star Venus Williams is on the South Side for the Chicago Tennis Festival. Williams is competing in the Chicago Women's Open Tournament at XS Tennis in the Washington Park neighborhood.

Her celebrity goes beyond the tennis world, but for Venus Williams to take the court for a professional tennis tournament in Chicago is nothing short of historic. It's the first professional tennis tournament in Chicago in more than two decades, and Williams is the biggest star attraction.

"Having it on the South Side is great," tennis fan Tracey Johnson said. "It gives the kids something positive to be engaged in."

With this tournament, Kamau Murray is the first African American to promote a professional tennis tournament. And he's hosting it at the 4-year-old world class tennis facility in the Washington Park neighborhood that's making the sport accessible to diverse communities.

"To encourage growth of tennis in the minority community," Murray said. "The diversity is not just on the court."

Williams, the former No. 1 player in the world, practiced before her match Monday afternoon. But this WTA tournament is also attracting some of the other best players in the world to the city, including the Olympic bronze medalist and No. 1 seed Elina Svitolina from Ukraine.

"We don't have facilities like this in communities like this, so it's so important, so important," tennis fan Johnathan Abernathy said. "To bring it here helps to show young kids it's something you can do."

Seeing the pros up close and playing on the same courts Chicago kids have access to may inspire future pros. Imani Williams plans to play in college.

"It's really exciting," Williams said. "I'm glad it's here in the community."

"Our primary goal is to use tennis to put kids in college," Murray added.
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