See how Serena Williams became one of the all-time greats with this behind-the-scenes look at her journey through the sport.
By Alex Petali
“I’m not the only one who feels a lot of pressure. I feel it, too. Everybody,” she admitted on a recent episode of The Talk. That was when Serena Williams was asked about her time at the University of Virginia. “I went there because I have to do it,” she told host David Letterman in the episode. “We’re going to play hard until the end. So I’m going to go to school and I’m going to get my degree.”
That was in 1997. That was the beginning of Serena Williams‘s second stint in the professional tennis tour. At the time, she played under the name Venus Williams, and her career was almost immediately derailed when she was busted by an angry fan who was upset by her performance in her third-round match at Wimbledon. The fan was caught by security trying to gain access to the court and was told to leave by tournament director, Mike McLean.
It got worse from there. Williams and her coach, Barbara Van Geem, were banned from attending the tournament and fined $1,800. For the remainder of the year, she played in exhibition matches. She was banned by the tournament from playing in exhibition matches after she was arrested in the middle of an exhibition at the 1992 U.S. Open.
The police report from that incident is filled with allegations about Williams cheating on a “tour guide” who she hired to coach her through the U.S. Open. From that point on, her career was off and on. It would all start to come back together during Williams’s second stint in the professional tour in 2008.
The U.S. Open at Forest Hills in New York — Serena Williams was there on that day — was a turning point for the women’s tennis player. Williams entered the tournament against two other American women in Monica Seles and Kim Clijsters, both of whom were seeded. She was seeded first, but she was still facing a three-time champion. “A win would be a lot of things for me: I’d be the first American woman to win the U.S. Open. I would