© Ella Ling


Top 10 of Venus Williams moments

1. Winning her first slam
The New York Times reported the moment when Venus Ebony Starr Williams won the 2000 Wimbledon Championships, for her first grand slam, as the moment when “pure joy took over – suddenly, she was leaping across the lawn of Centre Court like a child twirling through a backyard sprinkler”. With her victory over Lindsay Davenport, Williams became the first African-American to win the Venus Rosewater Dish since Althea Gibson in 1958.
2. Trying to reach Cloud Eleven
The reason that Williams gave for calling her clothing line ‘Eleven’ was that “it’s better than ten”, which made her sound like a member of the fictional band Spinal Tap when explaining why the knobs on his amplifier go up to eleven: “It’s one louder than ten.” She once said this about her tennis: “I’m always trying to take it to another level, regardless. If I’m playing on cloud nine, I’m trying to get to cloud ten and eventually cloud eleven.”
3. Eccentric dress-sense
Ever since she started wearing creations from her own clothing range, her on-court dress sense has become a little more, ahem, distinctive. At the 2010 Australian Open, she caused such controversy by wearing a pair of flesh-coloured pants under her dress that her publicist was calling her in the middle of the night. At that year’s French Open, it looked as though she had come dressed for an evening of high-kicking at the Moulin Rouge, rather than playing clay-court tennis, as she wore an outfit of red and black lace. Then, at the 2011 Australian Open, there was the yellow lattice and rainbow confection which she said had been inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. When she played last summer’s Wimbledon, she became the first player in the tournament’s history to clothe herself in net curtains.
4. Campaigning over equal prize-money
Williams was one of the most outspoken players over parity of pay. “The greatest tennis tournament in the world has reached an even greater height,” she said on the day in 2007 when the All England Club that they were ending the pay gap between the sexes. “I applaud the decision by Wimbledon, which recognise the value of women tennis.”
5. The first time she played her sister for a grand slam title
The title-match at the 2001 US Open was the first women’s final at the tournament to be televised in primetime – it was also the first grand slam final to be contested by siblings for more than a century. “There have been good things and bad things,” Venus said after defeating Serena in straight sets. “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 because I love her so much, and that’s what counts.”
6. The race controversy in the desert
Ten minutes before Venus was due to play Serena in the semi-final of the 2001 tournament in Indian Wells, she withdrew with injury. The next day, Serena was jeered and booed by the crowd as she played the final against Kim Clijsters and she felt as though the barracking was racially-motivated. Her father Richard suggested that he and Venus were called “niggers” by members of the crowd as they made their way to their seats. “When Venus and I were walking down the stairs to our seats, people kept calling me nigger,” Richard has recalled. “One guy said: ‘I wish it was ’75 [a reference to the 1975 riots], as we’d skin you alive’.”  
7. Her grass-court game
There is only one grand slam tournament at which Venus has more titles than Serena, and that is Wimbledon, where she leads by five trophies to four. When Venus was at her grass-court peak, Martina Navratilova had this to say about the American: “What makes Venus so dangerous on the Wimbledon grass is that she’s got the wingspan of a 747 so when she comes to the net, her opponent thinks, ‘Aaargh, oh no, what do I do now?’ Venus loves grass, she embraces it. She plays with abandon and attitude, she takes charge.”
8. The serve
Such was the ferocity of Venus’s serve during the 2007 Wimbledon final, her opponent Marion Bartoli afterwards complained that her wrist hurt. “Venus was serving at more than 120mph on her first serve, and sometimes it was hurting my wrist so bad because the ball was coming at me so quickly,” said the Frenchwoman. “That was a shock to the wrist. I wasn’t used to that.”
9. The allegations of fixes
Venus always hated the innuendo that all-Williams matches were in some way predetermined, but never more so than before the 2008 Wimbledon final. The woman she had just beaten in the semi-final, Russian Elena Dementieva, suggested that the title-match would,” for sure, be a family decision”. Venus had this response: “I find this pretty offensive because I’m extremely professional in everything I do on and off the court. I contribute my best in the sport, and I also have a ton of respect for myself and my family. So any mention of this is extremely disrespectful of who I am, what I stand for, and my family.”
10. Suffering from an auto-immune disease
For years, Venus has had difficulties with her stamina, and last season she discovered that she had Sjogren’s Syndrome. “It’s something you live with your whole life,” she said. “The good news is that I now know, after years of not knowing, what’s happening. I feel like I can get better and move on. It’s not that you don’t have energy; you just feel beat up.”