Excerpt: Venus Williams' 'Come to Win'

Advocacy in women's tennis has long been a concern of mine. Picking up where Billie Jean King left off, I, along with others, have fought hard for equal prize money for women at Wimbledon. Many people point to an essay I wrote that appeared in The Times of London in 2006, before the fortnight began, as a major turning point in the battle for equal pay. So I was particularly heartened when I read what a positive experience sports has had on the women in this book. I started playing tennis after Title IX , so I never realized what an advantage I'd had as a result of having played competitive sports and having my competitive fire lit early on until I read passages from the successful women in this book. Debra Lee eloquently speaks to what an advantage athletic girls have out in the world: "One of the advantages that men had over women is that they learned at an early age to compete and that it's okay to lose and keep going. Girls missed out on that for a long time because we didn't have team sports. I see what my kids have gone through recently and it's a whole different world. . . . The more girls grow up competing and learning how tough it is and that you've just got to get back up and keep going when you lose, the better off we are." I've always wanted to compete, and not just for the sake of competing, but to gain against the big guys. When I first went pro, I didn't understand the seeding of players in tournaments. In my first breakthrough tournament, a player asked me, "So, what part of the draw are you in?" I said, "Oh, in the middle." She said, "There's no middle." I didn't get it. We weren't taught draw. We were taught, "Go out there and play. It doesn't matter who you play. Play your game, then you're the better one." Back then, you got "quality points," so if you beat a higher-ranked player, you would get more points. If you beat the number one, you got one hundred points, and if you beat the number one hundred, you got one point, or five points. When we drew a higher-ranked player, we said, "Yeah! Now I can get all those points." The other players had the attitude of, "Oh shoot! I drew this higher-ranked player. Bad luck for me." My mentality was totally different. Back in the day, if someone asked me whom I would rather play, I said, "Well, whoever is ranked higher," because I wanted the points. I didn't want to labor against someone lower-ranked and not even get any points. Once a generation of women finally got to play organized sports in college, it's no wonder they made the strides they did in the marketplace.

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