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Venus and Serena Williams help inspire diversity in tennis

NEW YORK — Venus and Serena Williams have been a nearly constant presence at the U.S. Open since the debut of Arthur Ashe Stadium 21 years ago. Their 30 combined Grand Slam singles titles have changed the tennis landscape.

Many American kids of color are taking part in youth programs, often citing the superstar sisters as the reason.

D.A. Abrams is chief diversity and inclusion officer for the U.S. Tennis Association. He says there is more ethnic diversity than in the past at junior tournaments and higher levels.

The No. 1 junior is 14-year-old African-American Cori “Coco” Gauff, who once practiced on the same park courts in Delray Beach, Florida, as the Williams sisters. Gauff recently won the French Open girls title.

Several young black players competed in the final major of the season at Flushing Meadows, including Whitney Osuigwe, who recently won the USTA 18s Girls National title and earned a wild card into the main draw. Rising Canadian stars Felix Auger-Aliassime and Franciose Abanda went through qualifying, and Auger-Aliassime reached the main draw.

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AP Radio Correspondent Julie Walker contributed to this report.