Venus Williams, Olympic dreams in mind, plays on at 40

Would anyone have predicted when Venus Williams won her first Olympic medals in 2000 that she'd still be playing top-level professional tennis twenty years later?

By Nick McCarvel

While little sister Serena was the “surprise” first sibling in the Williams family to win a singles major at the US Open in 1999, older sister Venus could call 2000 her golden year.

At the age of 20, Venus would capture Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Sydney Olympic singles title in the span of less than three months, winning a gob-smacking 32 consecutive singles matches.

She capped off her Sydney dominance with a gold medal in women's doubles (with Serena, of course), as well, making her the first tennis player to claim the “Olympic double” since the sport returned to medal status at Seoul 1988.

And some twenty years since that Sydney triumph, Venus still looms large in professional tennis.

Legendary status

What has transpired since, surely, is nothing short of a legendary tennis career. Yes, Serena continues to set her own records and write her own history, but Venus, with her fist full of Wimbledon titles, a pair of US Open crowns, 14 doubles majors, and five – yes, five! – Olympic medals, is a legend unto herself.

Outrightly, with those five medals, she’s the most decorated Olympian in tennis.

That’s just a portion of her on-court achievements, mind you.

“The fact that I have done well has shown that I have loved it and I'll always love it,” Venus told reporters at the US Open in 2019, speaking about her passion for the sport. “Even when it's all over I'll still be a tennis player.”

Eyes on Tokyo

Over the years, as she’s grown into a cultural icon, fashion designer, women’s rights proponent, and outspoken voice for athletes of colour, Venus has through and through remained what she began as on the cracked courts of Compton, Calif.: A tennis player.

One with lingering Olympic aspirations, as well.

“(If) I'm blessed enough to play again, that would be an amazing opportunity,” she told media in January of 2020 when asked about the Tokyo Games. “In a perfect world, (Serena and I) will be there. (We’ve) had a lot of success in doubles. That's been a real highlight in my career.”

Venus Williams as an Olympic stalwart

That hope hasn’t changed in her time away from tennis amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, though should Venus play at Tokyo in 2021, she’d most likely do so in women's doubles, and perhaps in mixed doubles, as well.

She and Serena swept to that aforementioned doubles gold in Sydney, then did so again in 2008 and 2012, as well. In those three title runs, they dropped just four sets collectively, including an unblemished six wins in straight sets at London 2012.

At Rio in 2016, when she and Serena were knocked out in the early stages of the women’s doubles event, Venus teamed up with fellow American Rajeev Ram to make a run to the mixed doubles final.

They’d finish as silver medalists in an all-American final against Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jack Sock. In all, that's a singles gold, three women's doubles golds, and a mixed doubles silver for the sister simply known as "V."

Venus... in a bobsleigh?

A passionate Olympian, Venus would become the first American tennis player to compete in six Games should she make the 2021 team for Tokyo. The U.S. team will be named in early June of 2021.

But why stop there?

“I’m going to be on the bobsleigh team” in 2022, she joked in 2019 about the winter sport. “I love playing at the Olympics.”

Whatever she decides next, it’s clear that the legend continues. Already golden beyond her years.