Venus in the ascendance to light up Sydney
Sydney 2000 marked one of the high points of Venus Williams’ eventful career, as the American tennis star won women’s singles gold before teaming up with sister Serena to claim the doubles title.
Sydney 2000 came in the middle of what was without doubt the most productive phase of Venus Williams’ glittering career. When she stepped out on the court at the Olympic Park for her first-round tie against Slovakia’s Henrieta Nagyovà, she did so as the reigning Wimbledon and US Open champion, those titles being her first Grand Slam wins.
A maiden Olympic title
Williams’ gold-medal challenge was aided by the fact that her compatriot and No1 seed Lindsay Davenport pulled out of the tournament before her second-round match.
Ranked No2 for the Sydney tournament, the elder of the Williams siblings saw off Nagyovà 6-2 6-2, before easing past Thailand’s Tamarin Tanasugarn 6-2 6-3 in the second round and then beating Germany’s Jana Kandarr 6-2 6-2 in the last 16.
Three-time French Open winner Arantxa Sanchez of Spain provided the opposition in the quarter-finals, though the young Williams was up to the task, coming from behind to win 6-3 2-6 6-4.
Then came another tough three-setter in the semis against fellow American Monica Seles, with Williams eventually prevailing 1-6 6-4 6-3 to book a place in the final against Russia’s Elena Dementieva.
In the midst of what would be a 35-match winning streak in singles competitions, the in-form Williams eased to a 6-2 6-4 victory to secure her first gold of the Games.
At the same time, she had been making relatively serene progress in the doubles competition with her sister Serena, 15 months her junior, the duo teeing up a final against Dutch pair Kristie Boogert and Miriam Oremans.
Played the day after Venus’ singles final victory, the match proved to be a one-sided affair, with the American siblings winning 6-1 6-1 to ease to the gold medal.
After becoming the first women to claim the singles and doubles titles at the same Games since Helen Wills Moody in 1924, a delighted Venus had this to say: “For me, this is almost bigger than singles. To have a victory like this with Serena, my sister, a member of my family and my best friend, doesn't happen often. It's very rare. Just to be able to play and win together at this level is really huge.”
Venus was wrong about their feat being a rare occurrence, with the formidable sister act going on to win 13 Grand Slam doubles titles in the years that followed, during which time Venus would win the Wimbledon singles crown on five occasions, the last of them coming in 2008.
Four Olympic golds apiece
The sisters were forced to withdraw from the women’s doubles at Athens 2004 when Serena picked up an injury in the lead-up to the Games.
They were back on top of the podium at Beijing 2008, however, defeating Spain’s Anabel Medina and Virginia Ruano 6-2 6-0 to land their second doubles gold, and then adding a third in beating Czech pair Andrea Hlavacova and Lucie Hradecka 6-4 6-4 on the grass of Wimbledon in 2012, a match in which Venus clinched victory with a sublime backhand volley.
Having won singles gold the day before to equal Venus’ gold-medal tally, Serena attempted to take stock of their achievements on the Olympic stage: “Crazy! I'm always copying her. I forgot that she did it in Sydney and I do it here. We're the same doubles team, we just split this to singles, so it's cool.”