Venus Williams “Moves the Ball Forward”
Contributed by: Aarti Bhat
Although her younger sister, Serena, has garnered more of the spotlight in the past few years, it is important to note that Venus Williams has done wonders for both the sport of tennis as well as for women.
Venus Williams is best known for her deft racket-swinging abilities, which have won her 22 overall Grand Slam titles and 4 Olympic gold medals. For over 20 years she has dominated the women’s tennis scene, whilst going through various ups and downs in her career. She has fought through injury and illness, particularly when diagnosed in 2011 with Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease which causes fatigue and can even lead to certain disabilities. While the road has certainly been rocky, in 2016 she has achieved some of her best results in years, most recently making it to the semifinals of the esteemed Wimbledon Championships. And, keep in mind, at 36 she is one of the oldest players in the tennis circuit!
However, off the court as well, Venus Williams has proved to be just as fierce in her accomplishments. Venus, alongside her sister, participated in the Battle of the Sexes, in which they competed against a male tennis player in order to raise awareness that the skills of women tennis players are entirely comparable to those of their male counterparts. Following in the footsteps of Billie Jean King, one of the most widely admired tennis players ever, Venus has long been an advocate for equal pay for female players. Venus’ published essay in The Times criticized the Wimbledon tournament of being on the “wrong side of history”, passionately arguing women and girls across the globe deserve to have “no glass ceiling”. Following this release, Williams became the face of the Women’s Tennis Association campaign advocating for gender equality in sports. When the Wimbledon finally changed its policies, Venus was the first player to benefit. As the 2007 Wimbledon female champion, she was the first women to ever earn the same amount as the corresponding male champion, Roger Federer. Williams commented, “Somewhere in the world a little girl is dreaming of holding a giant trophy in her hands and being viewed as an equal to boys who have similar dreams.”
2007 was a big year for Williams in other ways, as well. On December 13th of that year, she received her associate degree in fashion design from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. She plans to get an MBA in the future. She is now the chief executive director of her own interior design firm and has even published a New York Times Best Seller book.
Venus Williams continues to “move the ball forward” on and off the court. In the words of Ms. Williams herself, “You have to believe in yourself when no one else does – that makes you a winner right there.”