As Venus Williams celebrates 1,000 career singles matches, offers an alphabetical tribute to a global sporting superstar.
Mark Hodgkinson
February 12, 2018

A is for age-defying. 
When Williams played for the title at January 2017's Australian Open, it was her first Grand Slam final for eight years, and if her opponent that day had been anyone other than her younger sister Serena she probably would have lifted the trophy. And then, soon after turning 37 in June, she came close to being the oldest Wimbledon champion of the Open era (she lost the final to Garbiñe Muguruza). Her appearance in Melbourne 2018 marked her 77th Slam. Williams' longevity seems all the more extraordinary when you recall her father Richard's comment from years back that he wanted his daughters "out of tennis" by their mid-20s. 

B is for books. 
At the age of 30, Williams discovered a new interest: reading comic books. "It sounds funny," she has said. "The Flash is my favourite. He has an amazing body and a great personality. I wish superheroes were real. I would give up my job and chase them."

C is for cheating vegan. 
That's Williams' own phrase. Most of the time, Williams is a vegan, but occasionally she has cravings she can't resist and cheats on that diet. 

D is for dad. 
Williams' father Richard is a tennis maverick. The most unconventional of all his methods was busing in a group of schoolchildren to gather by the public tennis courts in Compton, Los Angeles, to heckle his young daughters, Venus and Serena. "Criticism can bring out the best in you," Richard once said. 

Richard and Venus Williams (Getty)

E is for EleVen, her clothing brand. 
Williams' personal motto has long been "look good, play well". The American, who has a degree in fashion design, has also said: "I want people to feel they can express themselves with EleVen, no matter what their body shape is." 

F is for flying economy class.
Williams has been known to punish herself after a bad defeat by flying home in economy class. 

G is for Grand Slams.
In all, Williams has 23 majors, with seven in singles, 14 in women's doubles, all of which she won with her sister, and two in mixed doubles. She has also five Olympic medals, with four golds and one silver. 

H is for Hong Kong. 
Of all the stops on the WTA Tour, this might be Williams' favourite. "I am a huge fan of Hong Kong because I am a night person and it's a night city. I love to walk around at 11 or 12 in the evening because there are restaurants and other spots still open, and the streets are full of people. Also, although it is a big city with tall buildings, there's a nature feel because you're surrounded by mountains, water and greenery," she told the New York Times. 

Venus Williams in Hong Kong in 2011 (Getty)
Venus in Hong Kong in 2011

I is for idol.
Growing up, Williams idolised Boris Becker. "I even had this habit of serving like him when I was in the juniors, moving my hips back and forth. It was kind of annoying." 

J is for jet-lag. 
You don't become a successful tennis player without finding a way of dealing with jet-lag. Williams has her own routine for coping - the same day that she lands in a new city, she will work out in the gym and then hit on the practice court. And however tired she feels during the day, she will force herself to stay up until 10pm, so then when she does go to bed she won't have any trouble sleeping. 

K is for karaoke. 
Williams travels with a karaoke machine. "After a bad day, nothing lifts your spirits like singing your heart out," said Williams, whose "fall-back song" is '6 Underground' by The Sneaker Pimps. "Everyone on Team Venus does karaoke. Even if they claim they are not into it, we'll get them to love it eventually. When we travel we even bring a portable karaoke machine with us. I am always trying new songs and coming up with dance routines." 

L is for love. 
Williams has described tennis as "the love of my life".

M is for museums. 
If Williams has any spare time during a tournament, she might visit a small museum. Small because then "they feel manageable". "In Paris, I enjoyed the Musée de Cluny. It takes an hour to get through the whole museum, and it has cool Roman baths and medieval art," she once told the New York Times. "In London, I like the Museum of London, where you can learn about the city's history."

N is for naked. 
Williams posed naked for ESPN The Magazine's The Body Issue. "It didn't dawn on me until right when I walked on set that I would have to be without clothes. If I would have thought about it before, there may have been a little less of a chance."

O is for older sister. 
One of the most remarkable aspects of Williams' career has been her role as the supportive older sister, with absolutely no jealousy towards Serena. The first time they played for a major title was at the 2001 US Open - which happened to be the first Grand Slam final contested by sisters for 117 years - and it was Venus who came out on top. But that result wasn't the start of Venus' domination over her sister at the majors. The last of their Grand Slam finals was at this year's Australian Open, won by a pregnant Serena, taking her head-to-head lead in Grand Slam finals to 7-2 (the only other time that Venus has beaten Serena in a major final was at the 2008 Wimbledon Championships). "That's my little sister, guys," Venus told the Melbourne crowd. With her seven Grand Slam singles titles, Venus trails her younger sister Serena by 16 majors.  

Venus and Serena Williams after the 2017 Australian Open final (Getty)
Venus and Serena after the 2017 Australian Open final

P is for prize-money.
Williams was among the leading players who lobbied Wimbledon to pay equal prize-money to men and women, with the All England Club doing so for the first time in 2007. 

Q is for questioning America's tax code.
After winning the 2000 US Open, Williams took a call from the then President of the United States, Bill Clinton. Williams used the opportunity to ask him whether he could lower her taxes. 

R is for record for fastest serve. 
Ten years ago, at the 2007 US Open, Williams hit the fastest serve of her life, which left her strings at 129mph, and which for years was a record for the women's game. 

S is for Sjögren's Syndrome.
There have been times when the autoimmune disorder has left her so drained of energy that she has felt "beat up", which makes her resurgence in 2017, with two Grand Slam finals, all the more remarkable. It was in 2011 that Williams disclosed that she had been diagnosed with the disorder. 

T is for Team Venus.
The youngest and "most spoiled" member of her team is said to be Harold, her Havanese dog. Williams takes him everywhere but the gym and church. 

U is for US Open.
Twenty years ago, Williams made her first appearance in a major final, when she was the runner-up to Martina Hingis at the 1997 US Open. Three years later, in 2000, she beat Lindsay Davenport to win the New York slam for the first time. She retained the title the following year, beating Serena. 

Venus Williams with the US Open trophy (Getty)
Venus with the US Open trophy

V is for V Starr Interiors, her interior design company. 
The principles of V Starr Interiors are said to "closely mirror Venus' own creative ethos: to develop striking yet functional spaces that serve the needs of the client while taking their breath away. It merges practicability with playfulness, business with pleasure." 

W is for Wimbledon. 
There was a time when Williams was so dominant at the All England Club that the casual observer might have wondered whether the Wimbledon trophy - the Venus Rosewater Dish - had been renamed after her. Five times she was the champion on the lawns, with the last of those victories coming in 2008, which was also her last Grand Slam title. Last season, she played in her 20th Wimbledon Fortnight, having missed just one since her first appearance in 1997. 

X is for X, as in Malcolm X.
To help guide his daughters towards tennis superstardom, Williams' father studied "great thinkers like Malcolm X". 

Y is for young. 
How do Williams and her sister Serena stay young? As Serena once said: "Venus and I are mentally eight and nine."

Z is for zero.
Williams said in 2017 she had "no plans - zero" to retire any time soon and has also raised the possibility of playing in the 2020 Olympics.