Richard Williams, the paterfamilias of tennis's sister act, rarely permitted daughters Venus and Serena (right) to watch television while they were growing up. He made an exception for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. "Not just tennis, but also swimming, track, gymnastics—they watched it all," he says. "I told them if they worked hard, that could be them representing America someday."
Eight years later, Venus and Serena make up half of the murderers' row that is the U.S. women's tennis team. With the Williamses, Lindsay Davenport and Monica Seles, the Americans will field four of the world's top six players, and, in Davenport, the 1996 gold medal winner. (That world No. 1 Martina Hingis, No. 4 Mary Pierce and even No. 12 Anna Kournikova have begged off going to Sydney only increases the likelihood of U.S. domination.) "Any of our singles players can win," says coach Billie Jean King. "A sweep of the [women's] medals by the U.S. isn't out of the question."
The Yanks are so deep that the world's top-ranked women's doubles player, Lisa Raymond, didn't make the team. King instead chose Serena for the doubles-only position. Claiming that King had reneged on a promise to follow the rankings and instead made what Raymond described as the "politically correct" choice, Raymond filed a grievance with the USTA to claim the spot she believed was rightfully hers. An arbitrator ruled in favor of the USTA. Whatever the rankings say, the Williams sisters will be the overwhelming favorite to finish on top Down Under. Just ask them. "We are the best doubles team America has because it's impossible to beat two of us," says Venus. "No matter how bad we play, one of us is going to be playing pretty well."
Not exactly in the spirit of Olympic humility and goodwill, perhaps—but, hey, it's hard to argue with her.