Re: What was the hype like for the Williams Sisters at age 14/15?
Venus was absolutely seen as a 100% can't-miss prospect, along with Kournikova, when she started playing full time in 1997.
The hype was entirely created by the mainstream tennis media and was heavily based around her mystique - very few people had actually seen her play until 1997, because she hadn't played juniors. And there was no mass access to the few matches she'd played or even video clips. All fans had to go on was the word of the press (who of course had access to coaches and insiders, and Richard of course provided quotes for days).
It made for some tension in 1997 when Venus was given star treatment before really posting big results until the US Open. She was put on Eastbourne Centre Court as a qualifier ahead of Iva Majoli, who'd just won RG, for example. Weirdly enough by the time the USO came around, they actually opted for a slumping Chanda Rubin to inaugurate the brand new Ashe stadium (Rubin of course lost badly to Tanasugarn) instead of Venus.
It was also interesting to see how under-hyped Mirjana Lucic was by comparison, even though her first results were even more phenomenal - the media didn't seem as interested in a Croatian girl without as many media connections who didn't look like Kournikova. They weren't that interested when her life went off the rails, either.
Serena really came up in Venus's shadow. She was always mentioned, but Venus was the focus for the whole year. And when Serena started playing full time, she was honestly so good so quickly that there was no time to hype her before her results did the talking.
Another thing, though: they never demanded any rules to be bent for them and they never came across as entitled to WCs. Venus actually turned down a WC into Eastbourne that year because she felt it would be better for her game to go through qualies.