That’s right, back when Stephens was 7 years old, Williams defeated Elena Dementieva in the gold medal match at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Note that most members of the gold medal-winning 2000 U.S. Olympic baseball team — including Ben Sheets, Sean Burroughs, Roy Oswalt and former South Carolina Gamecocks shortstop Adam Everett — have started and ended major league careers.
Williams, 35, is still at it. She has a No. 14 WTA singles ranking entering the Volvo Car Open.
“Venus is a beast,” Stephens said. “That’s awesome. For me to play in one Olympics, that would totally be fine. But for her to play in five, that’s like … I don’t even know. She’s not even human.”
Take a close look this week at a sports marvel for the ages. Williams and Roger Federer would become the first five-time singles players in Olympic tennis history.
Just another thing to like about Venus: She loves this represent-your-country stuff and has the souvenir pins to prove it.
“It means everything to me; the Olympics have always meant so much,” Williams said Monday. “It’s been a joy and an honor to be part of it. It’s just been icing on the cake with a cherry on top to be able to bring home some medals.”
The hardware haul includes one singles gold medal and three doubles gold medals won with sister Serena.
There is competition within the scramble for Sunday at the Volvo Car Open as players seek to solidify their Olympic standing before the August fun in Rio de Janeiro. The top four U.S. players make the singles draw, providing they are ranked among the top 56 on June 6. It looks good for Venus and No. 1 Serena, plus No. 22 Madison Keys and No. 25 Stephens (Coco Vandeweghe is No. 36).
“It’s a huge thing for me,” said Keys, 21. “I think it’s a huge honor and hopefully I’m able to play and I’m very excited for that.”
Tracking Venus’ Olympic run by former U.S. teammates adds perspective.
Monica Seles and Lindsay Davenport were the other Americans in the singles draw in Sydney in 2000.
At Athens in 2004, the year Williams won the Family Circle Cup, it was Lisa Raymond and Chanda Rubin.
Jill Craybas joined Venus and Serena in Beijing for the 2008 games, where Venus lost in the quarterfinals.
At London in 2012, Venus lost a third-round match to Angelique Kerber, this year’s Volvo Car Open defending champ. Other U.S. singles players were Serena, Christina McHale and Varvara Lepchenko.
“I can believe it, just because it’s Venus,” Keys said of the Olympic streak. “Hopefully I get to be a part of that team and get to see her fifth Olympics happen.”
Williams can become the second-oldest singles player in Olympic history. Turning 36 in June, she will be slightly younger than Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman, who was 36 at Beijing in 2008.
As Volvo Car Open players and fans roll off I-526 and onto Daniel Island, they are greeted by a long row of flags representing the countries of participants.
It was also a nice reminder of the Olympics, one of Venus’ favorite subjects.
“Just the feeling of getting into that moment,” she said. “There are so many issues in the world and it’s just a moment when it feels like the world pulls together. When you’re actually there at the Olympics, it’s just a wonderful, surreal feeling.”
Over and over and probably repeated a ridiculous fifth time.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff