Venus Ebony Starr Williams played her first professional tennis match on October 31, 1994. More than two decades later she is still going strong as she has joined an elite list of players who have completed 1,000 WTA singles matches.
She reached the milestone during her first Fed Cup tie rubber against the Netherlands on Saturday, and by Sunday evening the figure was already 1,001.
Venus might be in the twilight of her 30s, but there seems to be no stopping the American. In fact, she enjoyed a career resurgence in 2017 and remains firmly in the world top 10.
Here is the WTA’s tribute to the tennis legend.
During the early days of her career she was once asked if she wanted to become the Tiger Woods of women’s tennis, but the New York Times has her hitting with this brilliant reply: “No I don’t think so. I’m already Venus Williams.”
Williams made her WTA Tour debut as a 14-year-old in the Bank of the West Classic in Oakland in 1994 and she won her opening match 6-3, 6-4 against Shaun Stafford. Next up was number two seed and multiple Grand Slam winner Arantxa Sánchez Vicario. She was a set and break point up, but ended up losing 2-6, 6-3, 6-0.
A star was born, but it wasn’t until 1997 that she truly started to make the headlines as she became the first unseeded woman to reach the US Open final.
Martina Hingis stood between Williams and a fairytale finish, but the Swiss player was still a class above as she brushed the American aside 6-0, 6-4 in the final.
“I’ve learned a lot of things in this Open,” the 17-year-old said.
It took her another three years to reach a Grand Slam final again, this time she was more mature as she beat compatriot Lindsay Davenport 6–3, 7–6 (7–3) to claim her first major. She doubled up by winning the US Open a few months later by beating Davenport again.
“I always expected to win Grand Slams. This was meant to be,” she said after her first Wimbledon win.
By the end of 2001 her Grand Slam tally was four as she again won the Wimbledon-US Open double, but then she ran into a brick wall named Serena as her younger sister would deny her in five consecutive major finals.
She had to wait until Wimbledon 2005 to win her fifth title and she became the queen of SW19 as she won another two titles there.
Then her form started to dip, she picked up several injuries and was also struck down by Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease which causes fatigue and muscle and joint pain. It meant she dropped outside the world 100 by the end of 2011.
However, instead of throwing in the towel, Venus showed her true fighting spirit as she made a remarkable comeback, winning Olympic doubles gold with Serena at the 2012 London Games.
She steadily made her climb back up the world rankings and in 2015 she re-entered the WTA top 10.
By 2017 it was the “old” Venus again as she reached the Australian Open final, only to lose against Serena, and also finished runner-up at Wimbledon and the WTA Finals.
Although she made a surprise first-round exit at the 2018 Australian Open, the 37-year-old continues to rack up the records and be a trendsetter in women’s tennis.
While Serena will probably go down as the greatest women’s tennis player of all time, Venus will always be the one who laid the foundations.
Tennis is lucky that they have a Venus Williams.
Here are some quick numbers, courtesy WTAtennis.com.
277: Tournament appearances
49: Singles titles
11: Total weeks spent at No 1 in the world
7: Grand Slam singles titles
5: Olympic medals (four gold and one silver)
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