Venus Williams is an American champion women’s tennis player. She is a four-time Olympic gold medalist and currently holds the record for fastest serve in three of the four Grand Slam tournaments.
Williams was born in 1980 in Lynwood, California. At the age of 4, Williams’ family moved to Compton, California. The area had a high rate of gang activity, and Williams’ father was determined that they should experience what could potentially happen to his daughters if they did not work hard and get an education. Williams and her sister Serena, began practising tennis for hours a day under the instruction of their father, Richard Williams. Richard was also responsible for their education at home.
By the age of 10, Williams’ serve was at 100 miles per hour, and she used this to hold a 63–0 record on the United States Tennis Association junior tour. She became the number one ranking player among the under-12 players in Southern California. That year, Williams and her sister received offers for endorsement deals from sporting good companies and these enabled her family to move to West Palm Beach, Florida. Williams then began attending Rick Macci’s tennis academy and focusing on her school work. The Williams sisters had been the target of racist derogatory comments during previous tournaments and this, coupled with the fact that Williams’ father did not want his daughters to ‘burn out’ too fast meant that they did not take part in any more junior tournaments after Williams was 11.
In 1994, Williams turned pro, in her first match, she beat No. 50-seeded Shaun Stafford at the Bank of the West Classic in California, proving her talent. Three years later, in 1997 Williams became the first unseeded U.S. Open women’s finalist in the Open era, but lost to Martina Hingis. In September that year, she broke into the top 50 ranking for the first time and ended the year ranked World No. 22. By July the next year, she has risen to World No. 5 and during 1998 won the IGA Tennis Classic in Oklahoma City, the first singles title of her career. She also won the Tier I Lipton International Players Championships in Key Biscayne, Florida, defeating World No. 1 Hingis in the semifinals and won her third title of the year at the Grand Slam Cup in Munich. Williams also won the mixed doubles titles at the Australian Open and the French Open, and as her sister Serena won the other two Grand Slam mixed doubles titles that year, they completed a “Williams Family Mixed Doubles Grand Slam.” Williams and her sister also won doubles titles in Oklahoma City and Zurich, making them the third pair of sisters to win a WTA tour doubles title. A year later, the Williams sisters won the women’s doubles title at the French Open, the first Grand Slam title they would win together.
In 2000, the Williams sisters won gold medals in the doubles event at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. She also won a gold medal in the singles event. That same year, she won 35 consecutive singles matches and six tournaments, including the U.S. Open and achieved her first Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon, she also won the women’s double title at the same event with her sister. The following year, she defended her titles successfully. In 2007, after suffering from a wrist injury in 2006, Williams returned to form, winning the singles title at Wimbledon. A year later, she defeated her sister to keep her title, making it her fifth career Wimbledon championship. Months later, the Williams sisters became gold medalists once again in the doubles event at the 2008 Beijing Olympic games.
In 2011, Williams was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that caused fatigue, she adjusted her lifestyle and in 2012 was able to win the Williams sisters 13th Grand Slam doubles title at Wimbledon. They continued their success at the 2012 London Olympic Games, becoming gold medalists once again when defeating Czech Republic tennis stars Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. Williams also won her first WTA singles title in more that two years.
In 2015, Williams claimed her 46th career singles title when defeating top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki at the ASB Classic. Together with her sister, Williams has won 13 Grand Slam doubles titles, they have played against each other more than 20 times, including the finals of eight Grand Slam tournaments. She has received numerous awards, including Sports Illustrated’s Women’s Sportswoman of the Year (2000), The President’s Award of the 34th NAACP Image Awards (2003), BET’s Best Female Athlete of the Year (2006), Forbes Most Powerful Black Women In The U.S. (No.10) (2011) and the
the WTA player service award (2012). She holds the record for fastest serve in three of the four Grand Slam tournaments: 2007 French Open second round, 2008 Wimbledon final, 2007 US Open first round – 129 mph (208 km/h). In 2002, she became the the first African-American woman to become World No. 1 since the computer rankings began in 1975.
In addition to tennis, Williams has shown artistic talent and in 2007 was awarded an associate degree in fashion design from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. In 2015, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree from Indiana University East. Williams has her own interior design company V*Starr Interiors, in addition to a clothing line called EleVen and a collection of women’s apparel for Wilson’s Leather. In 2009, the Williams sisters became the first African-American women to buy shares of an NFL team when they joined the ownership group of the Miami Dolphins. A year later, Williams co-authored the New York Times bestseller Come To Win: Business Leaders, Artists, Doctors, and Other Visionaries on How Sports Can Help You Top Your Profession. She has also shown a commitment to social causes, and has worked with UNESCO on promoting gender equality throughout the world. In support of this, Williams and film director Ava DuVernay released a documentary in 2013 for ESPN entitled Venus VS., following Williams’ fight for equal pay for female tennis players.