On this day in 2000, Venus Williams wins at Wimbledon for the first time. Her victory over defending champion, Lindsay Davenport, made Williams the first black female Wimbledon champion since Althea Gibson won back-to-back titles in 1957 and 1958.
Overcoming a tough childhood in Compton, California, Williams became a champion women’s tennis player with seven Grand Slam singles titles, 16 Grand Slam doubles titles and four Olympic gold medals. Williams and her sister Serena are considered two of the greatest tennis players of all time.
Williams was born on June 17, 1980, in Lynwood, California. Her father, a self-taught tennis coach, trained his daughters on the local courts. When Williams was 10 years old, the family relocated to West Palm Beach, Florida so Venus and Serena could attend a tennis academy.
By the age of 10, Williams’ serve topped off at an impressive 100 miles per hour. Thanks to that serve and athletic prowess on the court, Williams was 63-0 on the United States Tennis Association junior tour.
On October 31, 1994, Williams turned pro at 14 years old. In 1997, she became the first woman since Pam Shriver in 1978 to reach the final of her first U.S. Open. In 1998, she won her first Grand Slam at the Australian Open. A year later, she won the French Open women’s doubles tournament with her sister.
When Williams won at Wimbledon in 2000, she said, “It’s really great because I’ve been working so hard all my life to be here… It’s strange. I’d go to bed at night and I’d dream I’d won a Grand Slam, but when I woke up, there was the nightmare. Now, I don’t have to wake up like that anymore.”
That same year she went on to win the U.S. Open, two gold medals at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney and signed a $40 million sponsorship deal with Reebok.
In 2011, Williams revealed she was battling Sjögren syndrome, a chronic, incurable immune system disorder. Many expected her to take a step back from tennis. Instead, she went on to win gold at the 2012 Summer Olympics and the women’s doubles title at Wimbledon.
Since Venus Williams' 2000 Wimbledon victory, she and her sister won 11 more Wimbledon trophies between them. The sisters also introduced an impressive brand of athletic play that influenced and advanced the game of women's tennis.