VENUS WILLIAMS AT 41

It is incomprehensible, yet true, that not enough attention has been paid to Venus Williams, Serena’s elder sister, and one of the greatest tennis players — male or female — in the history of the sport.

There you have it: an introduction of Venus, framed by a reference to Serena.

Typical.

Sure, Serena’s accomplishments on the court have eclipsed those of Venus, but we’re not comparing beluga caviar to chopped liver here.

Serena may retire as the greatest player who ever lived.

Bar none.

Everyone else then, would take a back seat.

But let’s give Venus — riding shotgun — her just dessert, shall we?

Her due.

She’s more than earned it.

Never mind that the two are tighter than white on rice, or so we’ve been told.

Hopefully, that’s still — and always — the case.

And though nothing is bigger than that really, there is a proclivity toward relegating Venus to the background.

Out of the spotlight.

Perhaps by choice.

Her own.

Regardless, her career has been stupendous.

Venus Williams turned pro on October 31,1994.

Halloween.

She was fourteen.

Since the numbers — 14 and 41 — have been reversed and juxtaposed, well, how much time do you have?

Her prodigious accomplishments have earned her $42,276,755 USD in prize money, 2nd in all-time rankings.

(Yes, second to Serena, who tops the list at a whopping $94,518,971 USD — more than twice as much).

Her career record is 815–264 (75.5%).

She proudly owns 49 career singles WTA titles, 11th overall.

Add her 22 career WTA doubles wins, plus two more in mixed doubles and the math reads a combined 73 WTA titles, good for second among active players.

She has seven Grand Slam Singles titles (5 Wimbledon); 14 GS Doubles titles (all with Serena as her partner — the pair is unbeaten in GS Doubles finals); and two GS Mixed Doubles crowns.

Her combined total of 23 Grand Slam titles across all disciplines is tied with Steffi Graf for the fourth-most by a women’s player in the Open Era, behind Martina Navratilova, Serena and Martina Hingis.

At the 2021 Wimbledon Championships, Venus extended her record as the all-time leader — male or female — in Grand Slams played, with 90.

She has won four Olympic gold medals, one in singles and three in doubles with her sister, along with a silver medal in mixed doubles, tying her with Kathleen “Kitty” McKane Godfree for the most Olympic medals won by a male or female tennis player in history.

By virtue of claiming the silver in mixed doubles with Rajeev Ram at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Venus became the first tennis player to medal at four Olympic games, as well as the first player in the Open Era to win an Olympic medal in all three events (singles, doubles mixed).

She and Serena are the only tennis players in history with four Olympic golds, as well as the only ones to win Olympic gold in the same event, on 3 occasions.

They are also the only Open Era female tennis players to win Olympic gold in both singles and doubles.

Want a little more?

Venus’ 35-match winning streak from the 2000 Wimbledon Championships to the 2000 Generali Ladies Linz tournament final is the longest since January 1, 2000.

And to Venus Williams, her number one priority was, and still is, to be a good big sister.

Imagine.

“My first job is big sister and I take that very seriously.

When you’re a big sister, it’s a great job.

I don’t know how little sisters feel about their job, but when you’re a big sister, you’re supposed to take care of everything.

And you feel good about it.

I do.”

Make no mistake.

Venus Williams is a fierce competitor, among the most tenacious.

She has battled back from injury and illness, continuing to persevere, and standing the test of time.

She recognizes the value of losing.

“When you lose, you’re more motivated.

When you win, you fail to see your mistakes and probably no one can tell you anything.

Losses have propelled me to even bigger places, so I understand the importance of losing.

You can never get complacent because a loss is always around the corner.

It’s in any game that you’re in — a business game or whatever — you can’t get complacent.”

She understands the significance of being your own best, and biggest advocate.

“…You have to believe in yourself when no one else does. That makes you a winner right there.”

She defines freedom on her own terms…in her own way.

“My ambition is to enjoy my life and to do exactly what I want to do.

And I’ll do that.

I will be free.”

But perhaps her greatest, and what may prove to be her everlasting legacy, is most aptly reflected in these words:

“I always like to win.

But I’m the big sister.

I want to make sure she has everything, even if I don’t have anything.

It’s hard.

I love her too much.

That’s what counts.”

Venus Williams is an ageless champion in every sense.

And in every calculable and conceivable way.

Let no man, woman or child dissent.

[Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Mr. Kaplan in August 2021.]

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Peter J. Kaplan

Peter J. Kaplan

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