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Venus Williams

Makes Her Debut At French Open

Venus managed to stay out of the limelight for most of 1996 but in May 1997 made her debut at the French Open, winning her first match against Naoko Sawamatsu in three sets. However, she fell in the second round of the tournament to Natalie Tauziat of France. Equally uninspired was Venus's debut the following month at Wimbledon, where she lost in the first round to Poland's Magdalena Grzybowska. On the basis of her disappointing performances at the French Open and Wimbledon, most tennis observers expected little from Venus at the U.S. Open in 1997. Surprising everyone but herself, Williams advanced to the semi-finals, facing off against Irina Spirlea of Romania. In doing so, Venus became only the second female ever to reach the semi-finals in her first appearance at the U.S. Open. She defeated Spirlea 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, becoming the first unseeded woman and only the second African-American female player ever to reach the tournament's final (Althea Gibson was the first). Of Gibson's contribution to the game, Venus said she "paved the way for us to play, because other than that, we would still be fighting to play on the tour. To live up to what she did would be great. It's important for me to know my history."

In the finals of the U.S. Open, Williams faced number one-rated Martina Hingis, who handily dispatched Venus, 6-0, 6-4. Despite the loss, she felt that she had proved herself a force to be reckoned with in tennis. She told a reporter, "In the past I really didn't worry about what other people thought because it was important what I thought, what my family thought. There's a lot of myths floating around. I knew one day people would see. It would just be a little bit of time; I hadn't played that much. So, I guess this is a great tournament for me. Maybe a fraction of the talk will stop."

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Famous Sports StarsTennisVenus Williams Biography - Compton Childhood, Attends Ric Macci's Academy, Makes Her Debut At French Open, Turns Tables On Hingis - CONTACT INFORMATION