NEW YORK, NY, USA - Partners on and off the tennis court, Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck and Greet Minnen joined a panel of athletes at the US Open’s Pride Day and opened up about their experiences as openly gay players.
Hosted by sports journalist Nick McCarvel, “Love All: An Open Conversation" featured current and former athletes from a variety of sports, including WTA Legend and co-founder Billie Jean King, NBA player Jason Collins, former MLB player Billy Bean, figure skater Adam Rippon and former ATP player Brian Vahaly.
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The panel reflected on their experiences as members of the LGBTQ+ community in sports, shared their coming out stories, and discussed their hopes for the next generation of athletes.
“We came onto the stage, and I told my girlfriend, ‘Wow, there’s so many people in here!’” Van Uytvanck told wtatennis.com afterward. “I was really surprised at seeing so many people. It was a great show, and I hope we can inspire other people as well.
“I was so inspired hearing everyone else telling their story, it was amazing. I didn’t know all of the other athletes, because I’m a Belgian. But I was inspired by a lot of the stories I heard, and hope we can keep doing [these events].”
Minnen added, “Everyone has on their own stories that were really inspiring. And of course, Billie Jean King is for us one of the biggest stars. Being on the stage with her was amazing. She’s a big example for us, and it’s amazing that she keeps doing these events.”
The only two active athletes on the panel, Van Uytvanck and Minnen spoke candidly about the wave of support they received from fans and fellow players after their now-famous kiss in celebration of Van Uytvanck’s stunning Wimbledon upset over Garbine Muguruza last year went viral.
“I feel like when we came out as a couple together, it didn’t feel like such a big step for us because we had already told our family,” Minnen told the packed crowd.
“For us I think it was a bigger step to tell our families than the world. But the [players] accepted us very well, and in the locker rooms we didn’t have any problems… We experienced only positive reactions. It was really amazing.”
The pair are a semi-regular doubles team, and captured the title in Luxembourg last year. Last month, they faced each other in a professional match for the first time in the first round of the WTA 125K Liqui Moly Open. Van Uytvanck claimed that win in three sets, defeating Minnen 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 en route to the Karlsruhe final.
According to Van Uytvanck, the added spotlight on her and Minnen has caused both players to be more open about their three-year relationship on social media - partly in efforts to increase the visibility of LGBTQ+ players.
“I think we did that because we are so happy together, and we just wanted to show the world that,” Van Uytvanck grinned. “We just realized, ‘We are lesbians, and who cares?’ We wanted to show just how happy we were, and we used every platform. We hope we can inspire others to come out at their own tempo.”
Van Uytvanck, ranked No.60 in the world, will kick off her US Open campaign against Viktoria Kuzmova, while No.120-ranked Minnen fell in the first round of qualifying. The pair are entered in doubles, although they currently sit outside of the draw as fourth alternates.