Los Angeles Lakers owner and former tennis executive Jeanie Buss revealed that in the mid-1990s no top player wanted to play an exhibition match against an extremely talented 15-year-old Venus Williams. When Williams was around age 14 or 15, Richard Williams hit up Buss asking her to put his daughter in an exhibition match against a top-20 player.
“When you talk about women’s tennis, I think back to a guy that kinda hounded me at the forum during all our tennis events, and he would tell me how great his daughter was at tennis. I was like, yeah, I’ve heard this a hundred times.
Her name was Venus Williams. So we had her come and play as an under-card and I think she was 14-15 and about to turn pro,” Buss said on the Advantage Connors podcast, per Sportskeeda.
Buss: No one wanted to play an extremely talented Williams
Since pretty much everyone knew how big of a talent Williams was, Buss couldn’t find any top-20 player to play against Williams because no top player wanted to risk losing to a talented 15-year-old girl.
“We couldn’t find anyone to play her because she was coming into her own and none of the top players wanted to lose to her because she was so young. I went back to her father Richard Williams and said, ‘We can’t find anyone in the Top-20 who will agree to play her in an exhibition’
He said that actually the person who gives her the best match is her sister Serena. And I said, ‘There’s another Williams daughter? Are you kidding me?'” Buss added. As expected, Venus and Serena Williams later became tennis giants and all-time greats.
Serena was the one with more success as she collected 23 Grand Slam titles in singles during her career. On the other, 42-year-old Venus – who is still listed as an active player – has seven Grand Slam singles titles in her collection.