Before Venus and Serena, now 22 and 21, were even born, their father, Richard, decided to turn them into pros because he'd once seen a tennis player receive a check for ,000. So using instructional videos, Richard—who back then owned a security agency—taught both himself and his wife, Oracene, a nurse, how to master the game.
They're young, they're powerful, and they've got bodies of steel.
I met them once years ago; now, for the first time since they've risen to the apex of their sport, I sit across from two of the most famous sisters in the world, Venus and Serena Williams.
Venus said, "Serena, you take my money—you go eat." And it was fried chicken day at school! Oprah: Does coming from such a strong family help you handle the criticism that comes with living in the public eye? " Most of the lies people tell about us are eventually washed away, so they don't bother me. Oprah: With all that's been said and written, is there one thing people most often misunderstand about you?
Venus: When anyone is critical of what I do, I'm just motivated by it. Oprah: Aren't you amazed at the untruths that people can write about you?
After they turned pro at 14, they traded those stodgy tennis whites for bold designs. For her part, Venus had already signed a $40 million contract with Reebok, which ranks among the highest endorsement fees paid to a female athlete.
The Williams sisters haven't been without their detractors. Others have said they lack fire when they compete with each other in the finals.
Williams we are all interested in your new boyfriend"."There is no new boyfriend.
I was born into a new generation of black women"."So Oprah is being forced to date Stedman?
And whatever anyone may think of Richard, one truth is tough to refute: When it came to his girls' future, he called it right.
Venus and Serena were just 13 and 12 when Richard declared they would one day be the top two tennis players in the world. Serena: I knew it was different, but I didn't expect it to make such a big hit as it did. Do you always pay a lot of attention to what you'll wear in the finals? If I don't wear something I feel confident in, I don't play as well. Getting back to tennis, how do you prepare for competition? Of course, you must have a lot of physical skill, but you can't play tennis well and not be a good thinker.
I don't consider the person I'm playing, especially that far into the tournament. Serena: Obviously, I want to win, and I'm sure my sister does, too. If we aren't, then they should come out and show us how to do it. Oprah: Venus, as the big sister, is part of your goal to take away that ranking? Oprah: When you're not on the road, don't you two share a nine-bedroom estate with your dogs? Serena: Venus cooks more than I do because she still looks out for me. You shouldn't slam the door and run up to your room. Venus: Being famous has taught us not to make presumptions about others. Venus: Men aren't criticized if they aren't out there having dinner and socializing. Your father has received some criticism of his own. No one can tell me what to do—well, no one except my mother. Serena: I want to be a giving woman and just a nice person in general. You do your personal best, and God reads the heart. You've been quoted as saying that fame and money are great, but they don't bring you happiness.