Venus Williams Goes into a New Orbit; Teenage Tennis Sensation Scores Big at U.S. Open; Father Hopes to Keep Her Grounded

Ebony, November 1997 | Go to article overview

Venus Williams Goes into a New Orbit; Teenage Tennis Sensation Scores Big at U.S. Open; Father Hopes to Keep Her Grounded


Teenage tennis sensation scores big at U.S. Opens; father hopes to keep her grounded

GREAT tennis players possess unbelievable skills, unparalleled athleticism and undaunting confidence. Arthur Ashe had these traits. So did Altea Gibson. Now there is a new kid on the block who's creating a stir--from the Compton, Calif., projects where she grew up to the exclusive tennis clubs where she now dominates the well-heeled White players who have long reigned supreme.

The second unseeded woman player to ever reach the finals of the U.S. Open and the first African-American woman to reach the finals since Gibson, the aptly named Venus Williams created her own orbit before succumbing to the No. 1-ranked women's player in the world, Martina Hingis.

At 17 and standing 6-foot-2, she's intimidating the game's best, and rewriting the history books in the process. She has a blistering, 100-plus miles per hour serve, a powerful backhand, a graceful forehand stroke, and she is so quick that she really believes that she can get any ball that is hit in her vicinity. And most of the time she does, seemingly propelled by her braided, beaded hair that spins in the wind like helicopter propellers.

All has prompted the questions: Is Williams the best Black female player since Gibson, who won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open 40 years ago? Maybe so. But don't tell that to Venus father, Richard Williams, who, during the midst of her outstanding performance at the U.S. Open, was not in New York, where the tournament was being held, but was at his Florida home with his telephone off the book, refusing to take calls from reporters or advertisers and marketers wanting Venus to pitch a product. In fact, in an exclusive interview with Ebony, Williams said that his wish was not that his oldest daughter would win the most coveted tennis tournament in the United States, but that she would "get the hell out of New York and get back to pursuing [her] education. …

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