Who is the tennis player who inspired Richard Williams to "create" champion daughters Venus and Serena?

Roxana Anton

Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena, in 2007Markabq/Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Did you already see the stunning film "King Richard", which appeared in theatres a few months ago? (in case you didn't: it is an absolute must-see, it's going to take home plenty of Oscars this year).

Director Reinaldo Marcus Green, Will Smith (producer of the picture and playing Richard Williams) and the entire team is doing an amazing job to tell the story of the rising Williams family, culminating with the rising star Venus Williams, who won her first million-dollars contract at the age of 15 (according to the movie).

What you probably don't know, is that Richard Williams got his phenomenal idea by following the career of a famous tennis player of the '70s and '80s: the Romanian Virginia Ruzici.

Right at the beginning of the film, Richard confesses that he didn't know anything at all about tennis. But when he found out how much Virginia Ruzici was earning, he decided that he was going to have "a couple" of daughters to follow her path.

Richard Williams had never been respected in his entire life; his daughters were going to be the most respected people in the world.

According to the film, but also to interviews that Richard gave, his idea about building tennis champions came while he was watching TV in his home.

One day, he saw a tennis player called Virginia Ruzici, that was handled a check worth more than his salary for an entire year. He said to his wife something like: let's make and raise some tennis champions.

He was watching Virginia Ruzici's victory from Salt Lake, in 1980. (source: http://www.enciclopedie.info/virginia-ruzici/)

What's even more interesting, maybe almost unbelievable, is that Richard wrote a detailed plan, about his daughters' future careers. All inspired by Virginia Ruzici!

Now, let's take a closer look at the career of the Romanian player, the one and only "responsible" for the birth and raising of the best tennis female players on the planet.

Virginia Ruzici 1981, in Bucharest, RomaniaMircea Hudek / agerpres.ro/ Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Virginia was born in Câmpia Turzii, România, in 1955, a cerebral sportswoman, training in the Dinamo Sports Club. (source: Historia.ro)

She was considered the best tennis player in Romania during the years 1970-1980, writes the "Encyclopedia of physical education and sports in Romania".

On June 11, 1978, tennis player Virginia Ruzici became the first Romanian to win the Roland Garros tournament.

In that year, Ruzici managed a performance that could hardly be matched today. The Romanian played three finals at the most prestigious tennis tournament, winning two of them. (source: Historia.ro)

That final was an extraordinary success. It's important to win the title and keep your name written there on the wall of Roland Garros Central. It says: "Virginia Ruzici, winner in 1978". And along with me, Bjorn Borg. It's a source of pride. The next day, when I woke up, I was in a completely euphoric state, which I never felt before", Virginia Ruzici recalled her moment of glory, in a 2014 interview.

(source: Historia.ro)

One of Ruzici's main assets on the court was her powerful forehand.

In a career spanning 12 years, Ruzici won 12 career singles titles, including one Grand Slam title, the 1978 French Open. In the final, she beat 1977 French Open champion Mima Jaušovec 6–2, 6–2. Ruzici also won the French Open doubles event with Jaušovec in 1978 and reached the mixed doubles final in 1978. She appeared in the French Open singles final in 1980 but lost in straight sets to Chris Evert. (source: Wikipedia)

Ruzici remained in the world's top 20 from 1977 to 1983. She set the record to be one of the 7 female tennis players to reach all three finals of a Grand Slam Open. (source: http://www.enciclopedie.info/virginia-ruzici/)

She was a true inspiration to many generations of ambitious girls (and fathers).

Today, Virginia is 66 years old and has lived for many years in Paris. She also manages the career of the amazing Romanian tennis player Simona Halep, who already reached no.1 in the WTA and is among the most promising current tennis players.

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