NEW YORK, NY, USA - On August 25, 1997, exactly 20 years ago to this day, Venus Williams made a winning debut at the US Open, rallying from a set down to beat Larisa Neiland, 5-7 6-0 6-1.
Going into the tournament, Venus wasn’t really considered a threat for the title, but she was on everyone’s radar - she was ranked No.66 and had never been beyond the quarterfinals of any WTA event, let alone a Grand Slam, but throughout the year she had shown an impressive new brand of tennis that many picked would eventually click and push her to the very top of the women’s game.
And boy did it click at the 1997 US Open.
After winning her opener - which, incidentally, was one of the first matches played on Arthur Ashe Stadium, which made its debut that day, too - Venus kept her run going and going. She beat her next four opponents - Gala Leon Garcia, No.8 seed Anke Huber, Joannette Kruger and Sandrine Testud - in straight sets to reach the semifinals, her first WTA semifinal of any kind, and at a major. She then survived a notorious marathon against No.11 seed Irina Spirlea, 7-6(5) 4-6 7-6(7), to make the final.
The run would come to an end in the final against the World No.1, Martina Hingis, but what Venus started 20 years ago would only pick up momentum from there, as she’s not only won seven majors herself, she also got to No.1 in 2002, the first African-American in WTA history to achieve the feat.
And amazingly, 20 years after her first US Open and 15 years since she was last No.1, Venus is not only one of the favorites to win the 2017 US Open, she also has an outside shot of returning to No.1.
And it all started right here on Arthur Ashe Stadium 20 years ago to this day.
Here are some throwbacks to the day Venus made her US Open debut on August 25, 1997:
~ The World No.1s were Pete Sampras and Martina Hingis.
~ G.I. Jane was the No.1 movie at the US box office; Titanic wasn’t out yet.
~ Kylie Jenner was two weeks old.
~ And this was the No.1 song on the Billboard Hot 100: