At the turn of the century Venus Williams had her big breakthrough.
Having made her Grand Slam final debut at the US Open in 1997 on her debut at Flushing Meadows at just 17 the American had to wait some time for a first title.
Having made back to back quarter finals at Wimbledon and semi-finals at the US Open in 2000 at the age of 20 Venus picked up her first Grand Slam singles titles!
Venus’ longevity in tennis is down to her as a person. I think she is one of the most humbling and resilient players sport has ever seen!
It is an unmatched longevity in tennis, Venus stands alone at 85 appearances in Grand Slams with Federer behind on 79.
Indian Wells 2001
Venus along with her sister Venus and her father Richard were subject to some of the most digusting racist abuse at Indian Wells after pulling out of her semi-final with sister Serena. It was a truly horrible moment in tennis for Serena, Venus, Richard and also on the other side of the court Kim Clijsters at just 17 being in this situation.
Venus and Serena vowed to never return and skipped the event for almost 15 years with Serena returning in 2015 and Venus in 2016.
The fight for equality has been at the forefront of her career and in 2005 really upped the pressure.
Roland Garros and Wimbledon were still refusing to offer equal pay in mens and women’s tennis and despite meetings with them it still wasn’t going to happen and Venus’ demands were rejected. WTA Chief at the time Larry Scott said that despite her demands being rejected Venus left “a very meaningful impression.”
In 2006 on the eve of the Wimbledon champions Venus Williams made some big noise writing this piece in The Times:
“I feel so strongly that Wimbledon’s stance devalues the principle of meritocracy and diminishes the years of hard work that women on the tour have put into becoming professional tennis players.
I believe that athletes – especially female athletes in the world’s leading sport for women – should serve as role models. The message I like to convey to women and girls across the globe is that there is no glass ceiling. My fear is that Wimbledon is loudly and clearly sending the opposite message….
Wimbledon has argued that women’s tennis is worth less for a variety of reasons; it says, for example, that because men play a best of five sets game they work harder for their prize money.
This argument just doesn’t make sense; first of all, women players would be happy to play five sets matches in grand slam tournaments….
Secondly, tennis is unique in the world of professional sports. No other sport has men and women competing for a grand slam championship on the same stage, at the same time. So in the eyes of the general public the men’s and women’s games have the same value.
Third, … we enjoy huge and equal celebrity and are paid for the value we deliver to broadcasters and spectators, not the amount of time we spend on the stage. And, for the record, the ladies’ final at Wimbledon in 2005 lasted 45 minutes longer than the men’s….
Wimbledon has justified treating women as second class because we do more for the tournament. The argument goes that the top women – who are more likely also to play doubles matches than their male peers – earn more than the top men if you count singles, doubles and mixed doubles prize money. So the more we support the tournament, the more unequally we should be treated! But doubles and mixed doubles are separate events from the singles competition. Is Wimbledon suggesting that, if the top women withdrew from the doubles events, that then we would deserve equal prize money in singles? And how then does the All England Club explain why the pot of women’s doubles prize money is nearly £130,000 smaller than the men’s doubles prize money?
I intend to keep doing everything I can until Billie Jean’s original dream of equality is made real. It’s a shame that the name of the greatest tournament in tennis, an event that should be a positive symbol for the sport, is tarnished.”
This was one of the most important moments in tennis history.
It got everyone talking, British Prime Minister at the time Tony Blair and members of his parliament endorsed what Venus had written. The WTA teamed up with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to promote gender equality in sports which was led by Venus.
In February 2007 Wimbledon acted. They announced they would award equal prize money to all competitors in all rounds and less than 24 hours later Roland Garros announced they would do the same.
Venus was congratulated worldwide for this fight for women’s tennis and equality and said this:
“Somewhere in the world a little girl is dreaming of holding a giant trophy in her hands and being viewed as an equal to boys who have similar dreams.”
It was very special that Venus would then in 2007 become the first Wimbledon champion to receive equal pay winning her fourth of five Wimbledon titles!
All of this makes Venus who she is today and continues to be for women, sport and equality. Her fight is unmatched no matter what obstacles have been in her way.
Injuries have been a major part of her career.
abdominal, leg, back and a recurring wrist injury were a major factor in her missing quite a bit of tennis between 2003 and 2006 but she bounces back and always came back fighting.
The 2011 US Open was where a lot changed for Venus. Venus had to withdraw from her second round match with Sabine Lisicki and was diagnosed Sjögren’s syndrome which is an autoimmune disease which causes fatigue and muscle and joint pain.
This never stopped Venus, she continued to fight even with injuries and when her ranking dipped it never stopped her climbing back.
2017 was another incredible Grand Slam year for Venus. It was the first time she had 20 wins at majors since 2002 and a first Australian Open final since 2003 a 14 year wait and a first Wimbledon final since 2009.
AO 2017 & 2019
That 2017 run at the Australian Open in particular was absolutely fantastic and the celebration after winning against Coco Vandeweghe was soo special.
Something that has never left Venus is how humble and gracious she is in victory or defeat and it is something you can’t teach, it’s about you as a person.
That person is Venus Williams.
I’ve seen Venus live in Melbourne and Birmingham and one memory I will always remember is seeing her the Australian Open in 2019 after her defeat to Simona Halep heading straight to the practice court, champion!