Queen Venus

June 27, 2016 — Queen Venus. There’s really no other way to pay tribute to her. Playing in her 19th Wimbledon Championships, the American defeated 19-year-old Donna Vekic on Centre Court today opening the door for yet another round at the tournament she has excelled at, winning five Venus Rosewater Dishes.

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Venus Williams at Roland Garros, 2016. Photo credit Leslie Billman tennisclix.com.

“I do remember my first year here,” Venus told the press later. “It wasn’t very fantastic. I was just so nervous. But, thankfully, since then I’ve been able to handle my nerves a little better. I don’t have any regrets because I’ve always worked my hardest.”

She’ll have to work equally as hard Wednesday when she plays Qualifier Maria Sakkari of Greece. The 20-year-old turned pro last year and has played 16 career matches. Venus, in comparison, has played 900 career matches.

“I still feel 26,” she said at one point in her press conference.  

Does the fact that Venus turned pro — 1994 — a year and two years before Sakkari and Vekic were born respectively?

“I had some hairy moments in the first set. That’s where experience sets in,” Venus said about her 7-6(3), 6-4, win over Vekic. “She hit more winners than I did [21 to 10] and seemed to track down every ball that I hit. But you have to enjoy the battle every time on court, enjoy the fight.

If the scale weren’t tipped enough by these measurements, Venus’s age will weigh it down even more. She is the oldest woman in the singles draw at 36. 

“I don’t think anyone feels older,” she said, The Wall Street Journal tweeted. “You have this infinity inside you that feels like you could go on forever.”

The sad thing is, she cannot. Her ability to change direction as fast as she would need to in order to advance deep in the tournament was not apparent today. As the ball traveled faster and faster and Vekic took it earlier and earlier, Venus’s movement was compromised. It’s a discouraging reality from the woman who set in motion fast-ball tennis. 

“I’ve lost matches [and] learned from it; it made me better,” she said. “I would have liked to have won matches or hit that one shot differently, but that’s competition.”

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Serena Williams (left) and Venus Williams at a changeover during this year’s French Open. Photo credit Leslie Billman tennisclix.com.

Venus won Wimbledon in 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007, and 2008. She and little sister Serena won the doubles title in 2000, 2002, 2008, 2009, and 2012. They are entered this fortnight, as well, attempting to polish up their performance for the Olympics where they will defend their title. 

“We have to start looking at 2020,” she said. “That would be impressive. If you think this year’s impressive, hold on.”

You can imagine one of her sweet child-like smiles, as she dangled this seemingly impossible dream to the press corps. That positive nature and love of the game — her livelihood — carried her through the darkest years of her career, after being diagnosed with Sjorgren’s syndrome, an auto-immune disease, five years ago. Without this strength of character, plus faith in family and her god - who she calls Jehovah - Venus wouldn’t be with us. She has evolved from a long-legged teen with beads in her hair to a world-class athlete, stateswoman, and activist. We are lucky to have Venus Williams. Let’s hope she makes it through her next round. 

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013