The morning of the ladies’ singles final at Wimbledon on July 8, Venus Williams wasn’t exactly bursting with nervous energy. In fact, waking up to face defending champion Lindsay Davenport, I just wanted to sleep a little bit more,” she says, laughing. “But I was feeling good about what would happen.” That confidence was not misplaced. Williams, 20, went on to win her first Grand Slam crown 6-3, 7-6, and in the process became the first African-American woman to take the Wimbledon title since Althea Gibson did it in 1957 and 1958.
To be sure, Williams’s historic run at the All England Club was not all strawberries and cream. There was, for starters, the bittersweet experience of beating her younger sister Serena in the semifinals. Not that the Williams sisters are overly sentimental when it comes to facing each other. “In a big tournament both [of us] want to win and want to go all out,” says Serena, 18, who won the U.S. Open women’s singles title last year. “It may be my sister, but she is the opponent.” Fittingly enough, the tournament ended on a note of family harmony as the Williamses captured the ladies’ doubles crown July 10, 6-3, 6-2, while their father, Richard, 58, who left London after Venus’s singles victory, and their mother, Oracene, 48, rooted for them back home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. “We worked hard to be the best,” says Venus, “because for us, why play if we don’t believe we can be the best.” After their dazzling performance, that was one point they had certainly aced.
Pete Norman in Wimbledon