Almost a week removed, the tennis world is still buzzing about the Australian Open. February is not a very exciting month on the tennis calendar. Thus, it is a good time for a bigger picture look at one of Australia’s most heartwarming stories, Venus Williams.
For much of her career, Venus has been in the shadow of younger sister Serena. In fact, Serena won in Australia at her sister’s expense to break the modern era record for Grand Slam singles titles. Much more will be written about Serena, and rightly so. However, Venus deserves the spotlight all to herself at least once.
She is much too humble to say something like that herself. So, leave it to me. Here are a few reasons why Venus Williams is so much more than Serena’s sister.
It is extremely difficult to get to and stay at the top of any sport. Tennis is no exception. The amount of time Venus has been a threat to win every event she enters is staggering. She reached her first Grand Slam singles final in 1997. It took her three more years to breakthrough and hold the big trophy. 20 years after her first splash on a big stage, Venus is still a top 20 player and fresh off playing in her 15th Grand Slam final.
Some of her contemporaries like Justine Henin, Martina Hingis and Kim Clijsters have had multiple retirements and comebacks in recent years. Even with a litany of injuries and illnesses, the 36 year old American has chugged along.
The elder Williams sister also deserves a ton of credit for fighting through adversity. It is easy to keep playing when you are healthy and making a deep run at a tournament every week. For Venus, who was diagnosed with an autoimmune illness known as Sjogren’s syndrome in 2011, it would have been much easier to call it a career at times.
She failed to win a singles title from February 2010 to October 2012. Healthy or not, that is a massive drought for a player the caliber of Venus. She kept going and also believed that success on a Grand Slam stage was possible again.
Despite being written off many times, Venus was eventually proven right with her run to the final of the 2017 Australian Open. It was hard not to get emotional after seeing the joy she expressed after each win down under.
Many pro tennis players have been around awhile and battled adversity, but professionalism is what separates Venus from just about everyone else on both tennis tours. Every year, most top players play at least one smaller event where they are the main attraction. Undisclosed cash bonuses are sometimes involved.
For Venus, the St. Petersburg Open in Russia fit this bill in 2017. After her unexpected run in Australia, most expected Venus to withdraw. The tournament began just a couple days after Australia concluded. There are withdraws due to fatigue every single week. Some are far less legitimate than this one would have been. However, Venus showed up and played. She lost her opening match, but I doubt any other top player would have gone that far.
“I wasn’t feeling my best today. You have to go out and you have to try every tournament…I always give all my heart on the court” Williams said after her loss. When you come across a quote like that, it is easy to see why Venus kept going through the tough times. She loves the sport as much as anyone who has ever played it.
Hard numbers and data are tough to deny. Venus has tallied 49 WTA singles titles, seven Grand Slams, 11 weeks as the top ranked player in the world, and an Olympic Gold Medal in singles at the 2000 Sydney games. She and her sister have also dominated the doubles tour over the years. However, regardless of who she is related to, Venus has built a career that deserves to stand all on its own.