WIMBLEDON, UNITED KINGDOM: US Venus Williams, her hair beaded in the Wimbledon colours, prepares for a strong return to her Polish opponent Magdalena Grzybowska 28 June during their first round match at the Wimbledon Championships. (Photo credit should read FRANK LEONHARDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Venus Played Her First Wimbledon 20 Years Ago

LONDON, UK - With Serena Williams sitting this one out, could Venus Williams be America’s best hope at Wimbledon? The tennis legend, who just turned 37 last week, certainly has more experience than anyone else out there - today’s actually the 20th anniversary of Venus’ Wimbledon debut.

Sometimes the first try doesn’t turn out the way you would hope, of course. Venus, 17 years old and ranked No.59 at the time, wasn’t just playing her first Wimbledon, it was just her second major - she made her Grand Slam debut at the French Open a few weeks earlier, reaching the second round.

She showed flashes of brilliance at Wimbledon - she was up on Magdalena Grzybowska of Poland in her first round match, 6-4 2-0 - but the No.91-ranked Pole ended up getting the win, 4-6 6-2 6-4.

“Everyone does have high hopes and everyone wants to win,” Venus said afterwards.

“But I’m not too disappointed. It’s my first Wimbledon and there will be many more to come.”

Here are some highlights from that match:

But over the years at Wimbledon we’ve seen much more of the Venus from the first half of that match. She’s won the tournament five times - in 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2008 - and reached the final another three times, in 2002, 2003 and 2009, losing only to her sister Serena in each of those finals.

Last year at Wimbledon, Venus stole the headlines round after round as she made it all the way to the semifinals again - her first major semifinal in almost six years, at age 36 - before falling to Angelique Kerber, who in turn lost to Serena in the final. But Venus may have made the biggest statement.

Now, 20 years after she first played there, could Venus be one of the favorites to win Wimbledon?

Here are a few throwbacks to June 28, 1997, the day Venus played her first Wimbledon:

- Pete Sampras and Martina Hingis were the World No.1s.

- Gustavo Kuerten and Iva Majoli were coming off their first Grand Slam titles at the French Open.

- Alexander Zverev was two months old; Kylie Jenner wasn’t born yet.

- Batman & Robin was the No.1 movie at the US box office.

- And this song had just hit No.1 in the UK:

Read more articles by John Berkok

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