Venus Williams in 1994

Venus made her professional debut on Monday, October 31, 1994, beating 59th-ranked Shaun Stafford in the first round of Bank Of The West Classic in Oakland. She almost beat the world No.2 Arantxa Sanchez in the next round, leading 6-3 3-1.

Robin Finn of the New York Times wrote: “Venus Williams is the most unorthodox tennis prodigy her sport has ever seen. She is a 14-year-old African-American girl with a ghetto in her past, a total absence of junior competition in her present and a plan to spend no more than a decade pursuing Grand Slam titles and six-digit purses so she can put a college degree in her future.”

Shaun Stafford: “She moves extra well for her height, she’s got a great serve and it’ll get better. It’s exciting for tennis to have her here. When I came on the tour at 19, I was intimidated, but here she is at 14, ready to play the pros. It’s unique.”

Venus joined the WTA tour full time in 1997 and reached the US Open final, losing to Martina Hingis.

Source: On this day in tennis history by Randy Walker

14-year-old Serena Williams makes her professional debut, losing in the first round of the Quebec City tournament’s qualifyings to Anne Miller 6-1 6-1.

Robin Finn of the New York Times wrote: “Instead of a stadium showcase, she competed on a regulation practice court at a tennis club in suburban Vanier, side by side with another qualifying match. There were no spotlights, no introductions, not even any fans. Her court was set a level below a smoky lounge bar that held a bar, a big-screen television, an ice cream cart and 50 or so onlookers with varying stages of interest in her fate.”

Serena: “I felt bad out there because I lost. I didn’t play like I meant to play. I played kind of like an amateur.”

Anne Miller: “I guess I played a celebrity… She has as much power as anybody around, but maybe she needs to play some junior events the way Anna Kournikova has to learn how to become match-tough. There really is no substitute for the real thing. I felt like a complete veteran compared to her.”

A year before, Serena’s older sister Venus had defeated the world’s 58th-ranked player, Shaun Stafford, in straight sets in her pro debut in Oakland, then led No. 2 Arantxa Sanchez 6-2, 3-1 before losing in three sets.

Serena did not play another pro event for another 17 months, when, in her fifth tournament back, she dispatched Monica Seles along with Mary Pierce in Chicago. She captured her first WTA title in 1999 in Paris, defeating Amelie Mauresmo in the final.

Anne Miller left the tour to return to college 3 years after her victory over Serena. She is now a stay-at-home mom in Portland and on the board of directors for a local nonprofit.

Sources: On this day in tennis history by Randy Walker, ESPNW

Extract from On this day in tennis history by Randy Walker

Arthur Ashe becomes the first black player to win a title in the apartheid nation of South Africa winning the doubles title at the South African Open with Tom Okker, defeating Lew Hoad and Bob Maud 6-2 4-6 6-2 6-4 in the final.
After being denied a visa based on his anti-apartheid views, Ashe is permitted to play in the event by the South African government. Ashe requests to tournament officials that the bleacher seating not be segregatedd during the tournament, but his wishes are not granted.
Ashe loses the singles final the day before to Jimmy Connors 6-4 7-6 6-3. Chris Evert wins the women’s title defeating Evonne Goolagong 6-3 6-3.

Extract from On this day in tennis history by Randy Walker

In the first-ever meeting between John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg, the 19-year-old McEnroe defeats the 22-year-old Borg 6-3 6-3 in the semifinals of the Stockholm Open in Sweden. The loss marks the first-ever professional loss for Borg to a younger player.
The McEnroe-Borg rivalry becomes one of the greatest in the sport as the two titans square off 14 times in all -each player winning 7 times. The two play in four memorable major finals, McEnroe winning 3 of 4 at the 1980 and 1981 US Open and at Wimbledon in 1981. Their epic final at Wimbledon in 1980 is regarded as one of the greatest matches of all-time, Borg winning his fifth consecutive title in a 1-6 7-5 6-3 6-7 8-6 epic.
McEnroe wins the Stockholm singles title the next day, defeating fellow American Tim Gullikson 6-2 6-2 in the final.”

Check out what McEnroe had to say about that first match. Extract from his autobiography Serious:

“Some people compare Sampras to Borg. In my mind, there’s no comparison. Even though Pete is one of the greatest players, of all time, Borg, by his presence alone, gave a lot back to the game. His story was incredible too: Who could ever have imagined such a player coming out of Sweden, a country of only eight million people, with a sub-Arctic climate?

He was the best athlete I’ve ever seen on a tennis court – I don’t think people realize how good an athlete he was. And the fact is, he had to be, because his game was bizarre, in a way: running back and forth, well behind the baseline, hitting ball after ball after ball until an angle opened up or the other guy missed. It was so side-to-side, compared to my forward-forward-forward, but Bjorn was so fast he could make up for it.

The first time we played – in the semifinals at the Stockholm Open in November 78 – was a perfect scenario for me, because it was on fast indoor, which wasn’t well suited to his game, particularly against me. I also think he felt pressure playing me in his hometown, in front of a Swedish crowd who’d gotten excited about the game because of him.

The win in Stockholm was a huge win for me – I was the first player younger than Borg to beat him – but it didn’t make me think one bit less of Bjorn. I just felt that I was with the big boys now – and this was the official coronation.”

And 34 years later, the two tennis legends still provide entertaining matches. (photos by Tennis Buzz, Optima Open 2012).

Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe

John McEnroe

Bjorn Borg

Lleyton Hewitt wins his first ATP singles title as a 16-year old wild card ranked 550 in the world, defeating fellow Australian Jason Stoltenberg 3-6 6-3 7-6 in his hometown of Adelaide.
At the age of 16 years and 11 months, Hewitt becomes the youngest player to win an ATP singles title since Michael Chang, at the age of 16 years and 8 months, wins the title in San Francisco in 1988.

Says Stoltenberg after the match:

He just played like a 16-year old. You do what comes naturally rather than thinking what you should do.

Source: On this day in tennis history by Randy Walker