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Together with her sister Serena, Venus Williams has dominated the Olympic women’s doubles tennis tournament for over a decade, winning three golds at the last four Games. At Sydney 2000, she also won a rare singles and doubles “double”.
One of five siblings, Venus Williams was born in Lynwood, California, 15 months before her sister and future doubles partner, Serena. Their father Richard was determined that his daughters would be tennis champions and took on the role of coaching them himself from a very young age. Venus and Serena were both quick to develop their physical strength (by 10, Venus was already producing serves in excess of 160 km/h), winning numerous tournaments across the USA as they progressed through the age categories. Venus turned professional when she was just 14, and three years later reached the final of the US Open - becoming the first unseeded player in the Open Era to reach a Grand Slam final - only to be outclassed by Switzerland’s Martina Hingis.
It was Serena who kickstarted the Williams sisters’ era of Grand Slam domination, claiming the US Open title in 1999. The following year, Venus claimed the first of her own Grand Slam titles, triumphing at Wimbledon and then the US Open, defeating fellow American Lindsay Davenport on both occasions. Straight after her victory in New York, she headed for Sydney, where she powered past Russia’s Elena Dementieva 6-2, 6-4 to win Olympic gold in the women’s singles final. The following day she teamed up with Serena for the women’s doubles final, and the sisters took just 49 minutes to dispatch Dutch pair Kristie Boogert and Miriam Oremans 6-1, 6-1. That meant Venus was the first woman to win the singles and doubles at the same Games since Helen Wills Moody in 1924. It was the start of the Williams sisters longstanding love affair with the Olympic doubles tournament. After that first win Venus enthused: “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.” She was wrong about just one thing: the sisters would in fact go on to record many doubles triumphs over the coming years.
In 2001, Venus and Serena became the first sisters to contest a major tournament final when they came face to face in the US Open. On that occasion it was Venus who came out on top. In February 2002, she was confirmed as world No 1, going on to face, and lose against, her sister in a remarkable series of four consecutive Grand Slam finals. Meanwhile, Venus, whose career was later disrupted by a series of injuries, made Wimbledon her own, winning the event a total of five times. The last of those victories came against Serena in 2008, before the two joined forces on Centre Court to win a record 13th Grand Slam doubles title.
An injury to Serena in August 2004 forced the sisters to withdraw from the women’s doubles in Athens, but in 2008 and then 2012, they were imperious, In Beijing, they overcame Spain’s Anabel Medina and Virginia Ruano 6-2, 6-0, and then swept aside Czech duo Andrea Hlavacova and Lucie Hradeck 6-4, 6-4 on the Wimbledon grass four years later, where Venus secured the match winning shot with a sumptuous backhand volley. “Crazy,” said Serena, who won the singles final the previous day. “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.”