Venus Williams stretches to return a shot against fellow American Lindsay Davenport in the singles final at the famed Wimbledon, England, tournament in July 2000. Her athletic all-court game has made Williams one of the brightest young stars in the world of tennis.
Venus Williams, born in 1980, American professional tennis player, who boasts one of the fastest serves in the history of women’s professional tennis at more than 200 km/h (125 mph). Venus and her sister, Serena Williams, make up one of the most successful tennis families in the sport’s history.
Venus Williams was born in Lynwood, California, and spent much of her childhood in nearby Compton, just outside Los Angeles. She began playing tennis at age four with the coaching of her father, Richard. At the age of ten Venus was the 12-and-under girls’ champion for southern California. In the early 1990s Venus and her family moved to Florida so that she and Serena could receive more advanced coaching.
Many coaches and observers believed Venus could be a teenage tennis superstar, but Richard decided to limit the number of tournaments his daughters played. He cited other cases in which girls had become teenage tennis stars only to burn out early. Although she turned professional at 14 in 1994, Venus continued to play in just a few tournaments a year while focusing on her schoolwork.
This strategy produced limited tennis success until the 1997 U.S. Open. Playing in the tournament for the first time, 17-year-old Venus went all the way to the final, losing to top-ranked Martina Hingis. Venus won her first professional singles title in March 1998 and a month later revenged her loss to Hingis en route to winning the prestigious Lipton Championships. A year later, she beat her sister Serena in the Lipton final to defend that title. The sisters have said they find it hard emotionally to play each other.
Venus broke through at the 2000 Wimbledon championships to win her first grand slam title (the grand slam events in tennis are Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, the Australian Open, and the French Open). She beat Serena in the semifinal and second-ranked Lindsay Davenport in the final. At the U.S. Open she again defeated Davenport in the final. Venus captured both titles for the second time in 2001, defeating Serena in the U.S. Open final. She lost the 2002 French Open final to her sister, but her performance pushed Venus to the top spot in the world rankings. Serena moved up to second, marking the first time siblings have held the top two spots in the rankings at the same time. The two swapped spots as Serena beat Venus in the Wimbledon singles final a few months later.
At the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, Venus won gold medals in singles and doubles (with her sister). She became the first player to win both at one Olympics since the great Helen Wills Moody did so in 1924 (tennis was not an Olympic sport between 1924 and 1988). In addition to their Olympic triumph, Venus and Serena have won numerous grand slam tournaments as a doubles team, including the 2002 Wimbledon and 2003 Australian Open titles. They are the first sisters to win a grand slam title as doubles partners since the 19th century.
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