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