Venus Williams Is In A Good Frame Of Mind

WASHINGTON, August 13, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Venus Williams arrived at her Zoom video conference with reporters Tuesday evening in a really good mood. After all, the seven-time Grand Slam champion had just beaten fellow former World No. 1 and Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka, 6-3, 6-2, in her first match back on tour following an imposed hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. It came during the WTA Top Seed Open presented by Bluegrass Orthopaedics on an outdoor hard court at the Top Seed Tennis Club near Lexington, Ky., with no fans in attendance.

Beating Azarenka provided a much-needed victory for Williams, who was winless in three previous first-round matches this year at the Australian Open, Acapulco and Monterrey.

On Thursday, Williams will face another former World No. 1 and Grand Slam champion in her younger sister, top seed Serena Williams, in the second round. The 40-year-old future Hall of Famer and her equally talented and famous 38-year-old sibling will be meeting for the 31st time in their storied careers. Serena holds the career head-to-head edge 18-12 and many of their meetings have occurred at majors. In their most recent match, at the 2018 US Open, Serena won 6-1, 6-2 in the third round.

“One Grand Slam winner, former World No. 1, to another,” said Venus. “It’s been quite the draw for me, but quite honestly, this is perfect, because I haven’t played in forever, so I want to play the best players. And I think I got my wish playing Serena, so here we go.”

Earlier Tuesday, Serena opened with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over No. 60 Bernarda Pera to set up her second-round encounter with her big sister. Afterward, she said she was pleased with how competitive she was, “staying in the moment and not getting down on myself. 

“I don’t know how much I need to work on because I’m playing unbelievably in practice,” said Serena. “I know I’m going to get better with each match, and I’m OK with that because today was nothing compared to how I’m practicing. I just need more rhythm, more time to be out there playing the match.”

Back to Venus, who stayed busy during her downtime from the tour with her various business interests, including her tennis and lifestyle branding company EleVen. Plus, she did plenty of Instagram Live workouts and interviews that were well received and generated a lot of social media buzz. “The easier job is probably playing tennis,” she said. “I love to play tennis.” 

One thing that was very noticeable about Venus in her win over Azarenka was her powerful first serve. She served three aces and won 70 percent (28 of 40) of her first-serve points. Said Venus: “I used this offseason – forced offseason – to redesign my game and make a few tweaks here and there. That’s what I did. I’m quite happy with it.”

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What they’re writing

Jon Wertheim, Sports Illustrated tennis writer, from his weekly SI Mailbag, on if the winner of the US Open should have an asterisk next to their name:

“The player who wins will have shown all manner of resolve and mettle and compartmentalization and persistence and focus. That winning seven matches in this cratered season, in this bat-guano-crazy context, should be adorned with an exclamation point.

“I think we need to see how this unfolds. We need to see the quality of the draw and quality of tennis. We also need to see context. (Specific to Serena, I struggle to see how any major won by a 38-year-old is diminished.) It strikes me as ungenerous to tell players in advance that, even if they win, it’s a tainted title. It also strikes me as inconsistent with reality. Plenty of players have won majors under extraordinary circumstances. Wafer-thin draws. Medical flukes. Boycotts. Opponents having panic attacks and injuries and menstrual issues in finals. Especially with some time, we tend only to remember the winners, not the circumstances.”

What they’re sharing on social media

Jay Clarke / Can’t wait to get back …

Katie Boulter / The force is female …