By Randy Walker
Going through some old papers and files I had stored at my mother’s house recently, I stumbled across a dusty file from my days as the press officer for the U.S. Tennis Association Player Development program in the mid 1990s.
I found a file full of biography sheets that I had top junior players at the time fill out to help me get publicity for them in their local papers and nationally. It didn’t take long for me to make a fascinating discovery.
In October of 1993, at a USTA Player Development training camp that featured the best 18 and 16 and under players in the country, a 12-year-old Serena Williams was in attendance with big sister Venus, then 13 years old and one year away from her celebrated WTA debut in Oakland on Halloween night in 1994. This was a big deal at the time as Serena and Venus were participating in their first formal national USTA program. Their father Richard, famously, withdrew both of his daughters from junior tournament play and groomed them for professional tennis in practice only. This camp, at the time, was one of their early forays into the “known” world of tennis.
Along with all of the other boys and girls in the camp – including the Bryan twins among others – Serena and Venus filled out these biographical questionnaire forms for me. Seeing the status that they achieved in the world of tennis today, it’s fascinating to get a small glimpse at what they were like at age 12 and 13. Here’s how they responded to the questionnaire.
Under BEST SHOT AND STRENGTH, Serena responded “forehand cross court, backhand down line, crosscourt”
For BEGAN PLAYING TENNIS (age, year, place, story or anecdotes), Serena wrote “4 years, 1985 or 1986, Compton, CA”
For SCHOOL HONORS AND GRADE AVERAGE, Serena wrote “Good… math, writing and others”
For FUTURE PLANS (College, Professional), Serena wrote “Professional”
For TENNIS GOALS, she wrote “To become No. 1 in the world”
Under MAJOR TOURANMENT VICTORIES, TOURNAMENT RESULTS, Serena wrote “sectionals, stopped playing tournaments for almost 3 years”
Under BEST WINS: “Sectionals CA”
In the ROLE MODEL question, Serena answered “Me” “Serena”
Under INTERESTS OUTSIDE TENNIS, she wrote “Gymnastics, track, swimming, others”
The answers Venus provided were also quite interesting.
For BEST SHOT AND STRENGTH, Venus answered “All shots”
Under SCHOOL HONORS AND GRADE AVERAGE, Venus wrote “94.5”
For FUTURE PLANS (College, Professional), Venus answered “To be #1, win Wimbledon”
For MAJOR TOURNAMENT VICTORIES, TOURNAMENT RESULTS, Venus wrote “Sectionals”
For BEST WINS, Venus answered “Girl … 300 in the world at 12”
Under TENNIS ROLE MODEL, Venus wrote “Me”
Under INTERESTS OUTSIDE OF TENNIS, Venus wrote “video games, reading, skating”
In many ways, they were typical 12 and 13-year-old girls with hopes an aspirations, but in other ways, extraordinary young people who would blossom into two of the greatest players the sport has ever seen.