[SUNDAY FEATURE] Did Venus Williams ever get her due?

How the first Williams sister changed the course of women’s tennis?


Credit Mickalen Thomas for The New York Times

By Elizabeth Weil | The New York Times

Venus is hitting the ball, still, after all these years. Venus, the dutiful Williams daughter, who actually followed the 78-page playbook her father wrote even before she was born to make her a tennis champion. Venus, who in following that playbook delivered on the dreams of the old man now sitting courtside on a bench watching her practice in the syrup-thick West Palm Beach morning.

Serena is doing whatever it is that Serena does in addition to her training — attending the royal wedding or dancing in a Beyoncé video or organizing the Met ball. Venus’s mother, Oracene, divorced Richard Williams in 2002. Richard’s latest wife, Lakeisha, is gone as well. Richard, white-bearded and diminished by age, reportedly had a stroke, and in its wake he and Lakeisha have been dragging each other through a messy divorce. But Venus is here. Venus is loyal. Richard and Serena will tell you Venus is the most loyal person in the world. “There’s your average loyalty,” Serena told me. Then there’s Venus loyalty, which “for lack of a better word is mind-boggling.”

Earlier that September morning, before Venus’s alarm rang, Richard called and woke her up. Richard likes to do this, and Venus lets him. She’s secure and generous that way. Venus’s schedule for a normal day is: “I get up, I go practice, I go to the gym. I go to the office normally. I visit my dad. I get home at 8 or 9.” If the sun is too hot, Venus avoids doing drills that spray balls all over the practice court. Richard likes to come and pick them up. Venus doesn’t want him to scurry around and get heatstroke.

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