Venus Williams knows as well as anyone the importance of family. With parents who were vital in molding her into a tennis star, and a younger sister, Serena, who has been by her side–or across the net–for every step of her nearly two-decade career, it’s impossible to imagine where the 37-year-old would be without her support system.
Here’s a closer look at everything you need to know about the 2017 Wimbledon finalist’s family:
1. She & Serena Have Gone Head-to-Head 28 Times
Early on in what would eventually become one of the greatest sibling rivalries in the history of sports, the older sister had the advantage. Venus won the first head-to-head matchup in the second round at the Australian Open, she won the first Grand Slam final at the 2001 US Open, and she came out victorious in five of the first seven meetings.
Ever since that ’01 US Open, though, the rivalry has been decidedly one-sided in favor of Serena, who completed her first “Serena Slam” by topping Venus in four consecutive Grand Slam finals between the 2002 French Open and 2003 Australian Open. Overall, Serena has won 16 of 22 matchups since the start of 2002, running her overall record against Venus to 17-11. She’s also 10-5 in Grand Slam tournaments and 7-2 in Grand Slam finals.
The sisters have never really enjoyed playing against each other, but it has gotten better over time.
“I think it’s more fun than it used to be,” said Serena in 2015. “We really relish the opportunity. We’re both happy to still be involved in getting so far. And it’s still super intense. She’s doing well and she wants to win this. So do I.”
2. They’ve Also Teamed up for 14 Grand Slam Doubles Titles
Imagine if Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal played doubles together. And were also brothers. That’s sort of what it’s been like with Venus and Serena–two of the best singles players, one of the best head-to-head rivalries, and also one of the best doubles pairings.
The sisters won their first Grand Slam doubles title at the 1999 French Open when Venus was 18 and Serena was 17, and despite not playing the doubles circuit full-time, they have won 22 WTA titles, 14 Grand Slam titles and three Olympic gold medals (2000, 2008, 2012).
They’ve won the French Open and US Open twice, the Australian Open four times, and Wimbledon six times–and they’ve never lost in a Grand Slam doubles final. Their most recent victory came at the All-England Club in 2016, an impressive feat considering it had been four years since their most recent Grand Slam triumph together:
“I’m the older sister, so [being the boss] kind of falls on me,” said Venus after that win. “But [there are] different times on the court that we both take over. So whatever the team needs, it kind of happens organically. That’s the best kind of team.”
3. Before Venus Was Born, Her Father Wrote a 78-Page Plan For Turning His Future Daughters Into Stars
As the story goes, Venus and Serena’s tennis career started before their actual lives did. Their father, Richard Williams, watched Virginia Ruzici win a tournament and the $40,000 that came with it back sometime in the 1970’s and decided then and there that he would raise world-class tennis daughters. He proceeded to craft a 78-page plan for his yet-to-be-conceived future stars.
Whether that story is true or not, Richard and the girls’ mother, Oracene Price, did everything in their power to raise their two daughters into tennis sensations, whether it was coaching them or offering them emotional support.
“Their parents taught them well, and I think above all they taught them an unbelievable amount of self-esteem and the ability to be champions,” said former player Rennae Stubbs. “The bottom line is [the sisters] are very evolved people, both of them, and that is 100 percent because of their parents. There’s no question about it. They have to be given props all the time for that.”
In June 2017, it was announced that Richard will be inducted into the American Tennis Association Hall of Fame.
4. Her Half-Sister Was Shot & Killed in 2006
In September of 2006, Yetunde Price, the oldest of Oracene Price’s three daughters from her first marriage, was the victim of a drive-by shooting in Compton, California, as she was shot in the back of the head while riding passenger with her boyfriend. She later died in the hospital.
Yetunde, a mother of three, was a beauty shop owner and personal assistant to Venus and Serena, who were devastated by the tragedy. In 2016, in an effort to help individuals affected by community violence, they launched the Yetunde Price Resource Center in Compton.
“This is an incredible investment and commitment by Serena and Venus Williams, and I commend them for their desire to help children and families in Compton thrive,” said Mayor Aja Brown.
Venus and Serena remain close with their other two half-sisters from their mother’s previous marriage, Isha and Lyndrea. They also have several other half-siblings from Richard’s other marriages.
5. Her Brother-in-Law Co-Founded Reddit
Even more fame is coming to the family. In December of 2016, Serena announced that she was engaged to Alexis Ohanian, a highly successful American entrepreneur who co-founded Reddit, which has grown into the eighth-biggest website in the world.
“I am so exited for Serena,” said Venus. “She is so prolific on the court, but now I am happy to watch her prepare for her wedding. We are not sure what is happening with who doing what yet. You know there are a lot of sisters in our family. But I am looking forward to doing whatever Serena asks.”
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