Serena and Venus Williams may arguably be the most famous women in the history of tennis. But do you know about their father and former coach Richard – the complex, highly ambitious man who pushed them to get there? The in-depth story of sport’s most famous parent has been brought to life in an acclaimed documentary called On The Line: The Richard Williams Story, premiering on Sunday 10 September at 18:00 on M-Net (DStv channel 101).
Using archive footage and interviews with Richard and expert cultural commentators, the documentary pieces together the tennis patriarch’s life. Born in Louisiana to a family of sharecroppers, he faced racism, poverty, and violence, yet never gave up on his dream of seeing his daughters become tennis stars. Richard wrote a 78-page plan for their careers when they were just toddlers, and meticulously executed it – from teaching them how to hold a racket to finding them the best coaches.
While the recent film King Richard told his story (and landed Will Smith an Oscar for starring in it), On The Line is more than just a biopic: it looks at the history of American racism through the lens of tennis.
Variety praised it for how it "reflects the resilience and determination required by the Williams family to prove their sceptics wrong” while Golden Globe Awards called it "a sweeping cultural reassessment" that explores "not merely athletic accomplishment, but chiefly the contours of the modern African American experience.”
The film also explores the complex relationship between Richard and his daughters. He was a demanding father, but he was also their biggest champion. He pushed them to their limits, but he also loved them unconditionally.
“On The Line masterfully adds to the story of how the Williams sisters changed the face of tennis,” says Channel Director: Premium Channels Waldimar Pelser. “They remain inspiring figures in South Africa and the world over, and we’re excited to offer viewers more insight into their fascinating rise.”
Watch On The Line: The Richard Williams Story on Sunday 10 September at 18:00 on M-Net, DStv channel 101, the home of entertainment. The series can also be live streamed on DStv Stream and will be available on DStv Catch Up after broadcast. Join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook.