Venus Williams, an example to us all!

It could be construed that I have been a bit of a prick tease with this latest post. I promised a Serena blog. So I’d call this great foreplay myself then. Anyway, that’s enough of my sub-standard banter, I’ve opted for a blog on the other half of this exceptional Tennis family first. A family, as we all know I have a great deal of time and respect for.

There is no denying Queen V simply loves Tennis, she loves the game and she loves competing. It’s not about the money or the fame like it is for others. She plays the game always looking to be on the attack. I can’t remember a time when I have seen her ‘hack’ and just start pushing the ball back into court, It’s not for her! She took the game to a new level, especially in regards to power. I think it was Davenport who said nobody hits the ball harder than Venus.  She possesses a great fighting spirit and a never say die attitude, I certainly have a soft spot for her. It’s impossible not to, isn’t it? Always well-mannered on court and gracious in both victory and defeat. She comes across well in interviews, both friendly and sincere. She could easily be your best mate and can defo mine if she wants to!! But don’t fuck with her! Don’t take liberties! Vinci and Strycova have tried in recent years. Strycova, in particular, realized that she overstepped the mark in Qatar. She dared to glare at Venus in the post-match handshake. Venus glared back ”Was that look for something?”, Strycova’s response of ”Well done” was quickly responded to with an ”Okay, good” from Venus. Leaving the Czech with a severe case of diarrhoea. I’m basing this purely by the look on her face. It was like a naughty school girl who had just been bolloxed. Vinci faired slightly better in Wuhan as she managed to make it to the Ladies room, just about. After asking Venus if she ”wanted a tea or a coffee”, in reference to what she deemed as Williams taking her time. Another hefty look was sent her way too.

It’s incredible to think that the professional career of Venus Ebony Starr has entered its 23rd year on the tour. 7 Grand slam singles titles, joint 12th on the all-time list. 14 Grand Slam Doubles titles(all with Serena). 2 Mixed Doubles titles with fellow American Justin Gimelstob and 5 Olympic Medals (1 Singles Gold, 3 Golds in the Doubles, again with Serena and a Silver Medal in the Mixed with Rajeev Ram). In the history of the Olympics, only two females have won a medal in each of the Tennis events. As she looks beside her Justin Henin is one of the names alongside her on 7 Slams. As she looks behind her she should be waving with a smug smile on her face down at Sharapova on 5. That’s not really Venus’ style, though. Sadly, maybe in this particular case!

A total of 49 titles, 11 weeks as World number one and the first African/American Women to hold this position in the open era. A record amount of appearances, currently at 73 in Grand Slams is more than any male or female. On a side note, add to that Serena’s record and why shouldn’t Richard and Oracene be installed into the Hall of Fame? A remarkable family. One that might be copied in the future but I very much doubt will ever be surpassed! Attempting and reaching that goal are two totally separate entities.

My first recollection of Venus? Her debut at Wimbledon in 1997. Complete with Wimbledon coloured braids. SWAG! I had obviously heard about the Prodigy that was Venus but had never seen her play to this point. Her Wimbledon debut didn’t last long as a Pole by the name of Magdalena Grzybowska defeated her on Court One (from memory), in the first round. She had made her Pro debut back in 1994 in Oakland giving the World number two Arantxa Sánchez Vicario a fright on the way. She was just 14 years of age back then. Richard wanted to keep her grounded, education and an air of normality were needed in his eyes. He had seen burn out before I’d imagine. A very shrewd move this. Sadly he also pulled both of his daughters from junior Tennis years before, due to racial remarks made about them. This as we all know continued on the Senior circuit at Indian Wells, hence the 15-year gap from the event/boycott. I wonder what those idiots are saying now! Put that in your pipe and smoke it is what I say! Tossers!

She made her mark just months after Wimbledon in her first US Open. Reaching the Final after encountering yet more controversy in her Semi-Final when opponent Irina Spirlea barged her intentionally at the change of ends! Venus, as she has done all her career,  just got on with it, winning a final set breaker. Hingis proved too much in the Final, but the next few years of Women’s Tennis had been set in stone with Hingis, Venus, and Davenport. Graff was starting to wind down and Serena was only just starting to emerge at the turn of the century, despite winning her first in 1999. Venus claimed her first Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2000 and her second followed a few months later at the US with back to back victories over Davenport. She doubled her tally in 2001 winning the same two slams, gaining a victory over Serena in the final at Flushing Meadows.

In the next two years, she reached another 5 Grand Slam finals, only to run into her younger sister on each occasion and getting beat. The tally could have been even greater had the greatest player of all time not been there.3 more Wimbledon’s have been added to the collection in 05,07 and 08. Davenport, Bartoli and a victory over Serena in the finals made it 5 titles down at SW19.

She’s fought adversity. In 2006 along with other players she fought for the right for Women’s equal pay at the Slams. Culminating in a letter to The Times newspaper in her pursuit of Bille Jean Kings philosophy from years before. A few pops at Wimbledon in particular. Not frightened to take on the establishment. It struck a cord and parity was restored. Fighting a cause she believed strongly about and succeeding. A big step not only for women’s Tennis but for females full stop. There was obviously the tragic death of her sister Yetunde Price in 2003, which was not only difficult for the family but also put under scrutiny in the media. Something we all should acknowledge and empathise with, a horrendous and torrid ordeal. In 2011 she was diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome. A debilitating illness, which amongst many things leaves her absolutely exhausted. Not the best for a professional athlete. She’s never once used this as an excuse, though it has at times been obvious that it’s been the root cause of several performances. A back injury taking care of the majority of 2013 looked like it might have put pay to her best days. The fighting spirit showed once again, though.  2014 saw her bounce back with her first title in nearly four years with a victory in Dubai. 2015 proved even more fruitful with tournament wins in Auckland, Wuhan and Zhuhai. It took Serena in her quest for ‘The Slam’ to beat her at both Wimbledon and the US Open. The Mixed Doubles at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and the 49th career title in Taiwan were added to the CV. Then, of course, this Year started with an extraordinary turnaround by making the Final of the Australian Open, again losing to Serena. Her first Slam final since 2009 at the age of 36. It is honestly the only time a Serena win doesn’t feel quite the same for me. Slightly numb, especially in comparison to any other victory. I know how Serena feels. As I’m sure pretty much every fan does. Who’s to say she won’t go well on the grass again this year? When the surface is quick, she will always be a threat.

To show her versatility, other strings to her bow include her own line of clothing, EleVen, which she wears herself on court, she also owns her own interior designer firm and has a degree in fashion design. Is there no end to her talents? She is going to enjoy a successful career long after Tennis. Let’s hope she continues to play on for a few years yet, though, I’m sure she will. The game will miss her when it’s time to hang up the rackets. So let’s appreciate and enjoy the person, the personality, the athlete and also acknowledge the fact that this is someone who carries and presents herself in the right manner and has done all throughout her career. How many people can or have honestly said a bad word about her? Nobody? Exactly. It doesn’t matter what has been thrown at her in the past, she comes back stronger. A true Champion in every sense.

Andy Del Potro

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