Venus Williams’ childhood coach Rick Macci recently recalled the behind-the-scenes story of how Venus Williams made her historic professional debut just before the WTA’s new age-restricting rule that would have limited her opportunities.
Venus Williams is one of the greatest tennis players of all time. But before she became a legend, she was a prodigy who had been training with her father, Richard Williams, and coach Macci since she was a young child.
But Williams faced a dilemma in 1994. The WTA was about to introduce a new rule that would limit the number of tournaments players under the age of 18 could enter per season. The rule was designed to protect young players from burnout, injury, and exploitation, following the tragic case of Jennifer Capriati, who had a breakdown after reaching stardom at a young age.
So, on Halloween night in 1994, Wiliams made her debut at the Bank of the West Classic in Oakland, California, against 58th-ranked Shaun Stafford. The event was a media frenzy, with hundreds of reporters and cameras eager to see the hyped-up teenager in action.
Williams did not disappoint as she won her first match 6-3, 6-4, showing off her powerful serve, forehand, and athleticism. In the second round, she took the first set against World No. 2 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario before losing in three sets.