Venus Williams

Having already won 6 Grand Slam singles titles, including 4 at Wimbledon, Venus Williams is one of the best female tennis players of the Open era. She is the holder of the fastest serve in a women’s main draw match, at 129 mph. Along with her sister, she has revolutionised women’s tennis.

Early career

Venus Ebone Starr Williams was born on the 17th June 1980 in Lynwood, California. Along with her sister Serena, she was coached by her father Richard. By the age of 14 she had turned pro. At a tournament in Oakland she was leading the top seed, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, by a set and a break of serve. She went on to lose that match, but sent out a clear message that she would be a contender in the future. She backed up this claim by making the US Open final in her maiden appearance. She lost to another teen sensation, Martina Hingis, in the final 6-0 6-4.

The Rise to the Top

In February 1998, she won her first singles title at Oklahoma City. That year she reached the quarter finals of all four Grand Slams, except for the US Open, where she made the semi-finals. She also won the title at Key Biscayne. These strong performances enabled her to break into the world top 10, finishing the year with a ranking of 5. Partnering Justin Gimelstob, she won the Australian and French Open mixed doubles titles that year, with her sister winning the other two Grand Slam mixed doubles titles.

By now, Williams had become an established player. In 1999, she once again had strong performances at the Grand Slams and won Tier 1 titles at Key Biscayne, Rome and Zurich. She also won the French and US Open doubles titles, partnering her sister and thus becoming the first sister team to win Grand Slam doubles titles that century. She finished the year with an impressive world ranking of 3, which she held onto for the next 2 years.

Grand Slam and Golden Glory

The year 2000 saw Venus Williams living up to expectations as a future Grand Slam winner. She won her first Grand Slam at Wimbledon, beating Lindsay Davenport in the final 6-3 7-6. Later that year at the US Open, she went on to beat her once again 6-4 7-5 in the final. That year at the 2000 Olympics, she won gold medals in both the singles and doubles events while partnering her sister. She became only the second person in history to win both titles at the same Olympics. The pair also won their first Wimbledon doubles title in 2000.

Venus defended her Wimbledon and US Open titles the following year, beating Justine Henin 6-1 3-6 6-0 and her sister Serena 6-2 6-4 in both finals respectively. The sisters had paired up to win the Australian Open earlier that year, thereby completing a career Grand Slam in doubles for the sisters. In February 2002, her strong performances in the previous year enabled Venus to reach the world number 1 ranking for the first time in her career, which also made her the first African American to do so since the computerized ranking system was introduced.

Sibling Rivalry

At this stage, both the Williams sisters were at the top of their games and were dominating women’s tennis. After losing in the Australian Open quarter-final in 2002, Venus went on to play her sister in the next four consecutive Grand Slams. She was unlucky to lose to her younger sibling on all four occasions, thus enabling Serena to complete the ‘Serena Slam’ and hold all four Grand Slams at the same time. The two met once more in the 2003 Wimbledon final, and once again Serena prevailed. Venus and Serena raised the bar for women’s tennis with their fascinating power-tennis and athleticism on court. Brief respite from such dominance as provied in 2003 when both sisters were out of the tennis circle due to injuries and other commitments.

Winning at Wimbledon

2004 was an uneventful year for Venus Williams. She had won only one Tier 1 event and did not perform well at the Grand Slams. After a controversial loss to Karolina Sprem in the second round of Wimbledon in 2004, Venus returned the next year to beat Lindsay Davenport in the longest women’s final in history. Having saved match-points in the final set, she finally triumphed 4-6 7-6 9-7. She also became the lowest seeded player to win the Wimbledon women’s singles title.

Unfortunately, in 2006 she suffered a wrist injury and a string of poor performances. However, 2007 saw the real Venus Williams return, after taking time off for her wrist injury. She seemed to have recovered from it totally when she served a 128.8 mph missile against Ashley Harkleroad at the French Open. This was recorded as the fastest woman’s serve ever. Although she seemed rusty at the tournaments leading up to Wimbledon, she managed to get her act together to beat Marion Bartoli in a one sided final, 6-4 6-1 to claim her 6th Grand Slam title. She is one of four female players to have won the Wimbledon title four or more times in the Open era. With a semi-final appearance at the 2007 US Open, where she lost to Justine Henin, she broke into the world top 10 rankings once again, finishing the year ranked 8.

Campaign for equal prize money

Venus has played a key part in the fight for equal prize money between male and female champions at Grand Slams. Her comments published in The Times newspaper greatly moved officials and were instrumental in Wimbledon’s decision to award equal prize money to athletes of both sexes as of February 2007. The French Open did the same. Curiously, Venus Williams was the winner of the first Wimbledon where equal prize money was awarded.

Style of play

Venus Williams is a right handed player who plays with a double handed backhand. With her height and physical strength, she has a naturally potent serve. It has also enabled her to be more dominant at net with her wide court coverage. She is also a tremendous athlete. She can dominate from the baseline with her massive groundstrokes and is also very quick on court. A combination of these abilities has made her very difficult to beat on grass. She has recently incorporated the serve and volley style into her game, which would further improve her chances on grass and also add an extra dimension to her game.

Life outside tennis

Venus is one of 5 sisters. In September 2003, one of her sisters was murdered in a drive by shooting in California. Her parents Richard and Oracene are often seen in the players’ box supporting her. Her boyfriend is pro golfer Hank Kuehne.

She is the CEO of "V Starr Interiors", which is a successful interior design firm. She has also recently launched her own designer line called EleVen. Ladies Home Journal has named her one of the most powerful women in America. She is also an ambassador for UNESCO to address worldwide gender issues.

She said

I always like to win. But I’m the big sister. I want to make sure she (Serena Williams) has everything, even if I don’t have anything. It’s hard. I love her too much. That’s what counts.

I don’t come to tournaments to make friends, to go to parties, to hold conversations. I come to be the best, and I’m not mean and cruel and dirty.

I’d like to imagine that in order to beat me, a person would have to play almost perfect tennis.

They said

She’s a fighter, she’s one of those people that definitely has the ability to elevate her game. … If that’s on one leg, then she’s going to do that. – her boyfriend, golfer Hank Kuehne.

I think she can win three more, and I would be disappointed if she didn’t. – Her father Richard Williams on Venus Williams’ chances of winning again at Wimbledon

I don’t think she’ll (Venus Williams) be around for a very long time. I doubt it will be a long career for her. She can make a lot more money out of (tennis) rather than in tennis. – Richard Williams