Venus Redux

By Jane Voigt

August 30, 2016 — Venus Williams had never lost a first-round match at The U. S. Open in 17 starts. Her opponent, Kateryna Kozlova, had never won a main draw match at any Grand Slam. Expectations? You bet. Venus would be off court in about an hour. 

Nope. 

The match went three sets, taking the two-time Open champion close to three hours to breathe a sigh of relief when she finally won 6-2, 5-7, 6-4. 

V. Williams vs. Kozlova USO 2016 08 30 LB 0094

Venus Williams (No. 6) found herself in a tussle in her opening round match at The U. S. Open. She won the singles title in 2000 and 2001. 

“At this level everybody can play well,” Williams told ESPN, after thanking fans for their support.

Williams admitted that the errors — 63 — weren’t the best stat. 

“The errors told the story today,” she said on Arthur Ashe court. “But I wanted to stay aggressive.” She added that she’d work on a balance before her next round match with Julia Goerges of Germany.

The match, her 77th on Arthur Ashe, began as a cakewalk. Her timing was superb. She moved well. She outhit the Ukrainian in power alone when power for someone 14 years younger is their life support in today’s tennis world. 

But in the second set Venus went away in every fine aspect of her game, as she served for the match at 5-4. Kozlova had learned the power of making your opponent hit one more shot. She ran down a forehand, popped it up and Venus slammed it into the net. Then, Kozlova whammed a backhand crosscourt with aplomb to even things up. 

Williams took a bathroom break and came out eating bits of a banana. It seemed to give her some energy, as if in the span of that second set she ran out of energy. Perhaps her Sjogren’s syndrome kicked in, causing fatigue. 

V. Williams vs. Kozlova USO 2016 08 30 LB 0098

Kateryna Kozlova, ranked No. 93, played a brave match against Venus Williams today. The Ukrainian’s game improved as time passed, her nerves settled and her intuitive tennis abilities sprung to life. 

It takes more than a sassy upstart to keep Venus down, though. She kept looking toward her players’ box where mom Oracene along with sisters and cousins and her coach/hitting partner David Witt sat. Family is central to Venus. As the eldest sister she’s learned to teach and watch over sister Serena. But Venus also follows the advice of the 22-time Grand Slam champion. When Serena cut out sugar from her diet, Venus did the same thing a couple months back. 

“It’s working very well for helping with energy,” Venus told The New York Times right before the Open began Monday. 

The overall change in diet was necessary and came gradually, after she initially announced that she had come down with the autoimmune disease at the 2011 Open. She retired from her second-round match to tell the world. Venus now calls herself a ‘chegan,’ some sort of cross between a vegan and a vegan that cheats every now and them. 

Her daily training remains rigorous and one of the reasons she could pull out of the mess she’d gotten herself in on Arthur Ashe late this afternoon. In addition to a couple hours on court, Williams spends several hours on strengthening exercises. She does take off the month of November, according to the same New York Times article. She spends more time, then, with her fashion and interior businesses, and studies harder for her master’s degree in interior architecture. 

No matter how much you practice, mistakes will come. ESPN said that Venus’s challenges were around 90% accurate. But she lost the challenge when Kozlova whacked that backhand. No matter. Venus road the wave like the inspiration she is, silently betting her young opponent could go off the boil as the match neared its completion. Sure enough. Venus broke to win. 

The 36-year-old legend lived for another day on court.

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013