One of the key features of Venus Williams' on-court attire during much of her early career was the beads in her hair, which became a style statement. However, those beads cost her a point in her 1999 Australian Open quarterfinal against Lindsay Davenport, much to the dissatisfaction of the then-19-year-old Williams.
Some of the beads in Williams' hair fell off as she jumped during her service motion during a point. The chair umpire handed her a point penalty for causing a disturbance and Williams felt it was not a fair call as she "wasn't notorious in the past" for a similar incident.
Speaking at a press conference after her quarterfinal defeat, the American expressed her dissent with the incident and stated that there was no way her beads could have distracted her opponent.
"I don't think it was a very fair call because I, in the past, have not been notorious for beads falling out of my hair. It's not an incident that occurs frequently. I've never had such treatment before from any other umpire or any other match," Venus Williams said.
"I don't think it's a real distraction. It'll be difficult if they (opponents) are focusing on my hair and focusing less on the ball...I shouldn't have to change for any other circumstances. I like my hair," she added.
Meanwhile, her opponent on the day, Davenport, had opposing views and called the experience of having to play against an opponent with beads in her hair "annoying." Davenport disagreed with Williams and stated that the beads were distracting as she could hear them and see them during the match.
"Well, you can hear them and see them a little bit. Fortunately, you learn to play the ball. I'm not going to say it was a total distraction, but it is a little annoying maybe," Davenport said in her post-match press conference.
She further stated that the point penalty was warranted because it was 'in the rules' and it did not matter whether the penalty was a first for Williams.
"I don't know if this is the first she has lost a point from it, I have no idea. But, it's the rules, I don't know what else to say. This can't happen," Davenport added.
"Tie my beads a little bit tighter and move on" - Venus Williams on how she would ensure not to repeat the incident
Venus Williams further reflected on the incident during an interview with ESPN soon after the match and maintained her stance that she would not get rid of the beads but continue to embrace them.
When asked what she would learn from the incident to ensure it would never occur again, Williams said she would simply tie her beads tighter.
"My best bet is just to tie my beads a little bit tighter and move on," Venus Williams said on the same.
She reiterated that the beads had never been a hindrance in the past and they never forced an umpire to take action before the Australian Open incident. Williams, who is now a five-time Wimbledon champion, called it a "new experience" back then.
"I've never had a let call, a warning, or an umpire advise me on anything, because obviously it's involuntary and something that rarely happens and isn't distracting at all. So it was definitely a new experience, that's all I can say," Williams added.
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