At this year’s BB&T Atlanta Open, Venus Williams’ win against Genie Bouchard was another milestone in the good ‘ole boys club of tennis. It was the first time in the tournament’s 96-year span that women competed and were a huge draw.
The sold out crowd watched in amazement as Williams, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, triumphed over Bouchard, a 2014 Wimbledon finalist, with 6-4 in the first set and breaking a 6-6 tie with a 7-4 score. Williams, of course, made the evening affair look easy.
“I can’t really say I’ve done anything like this before, so I imagine there will be a lot of excitement today,” the extremely breathy and soft-spoken Lynwood, Ca. native told The Burton Wire during an afternoon press conference. “The fans will be excited, so I’m doing my best to definitely deliver a win.”
Williams’ two decades of vigorous and tenacious athleticism against the young Canadian tennis pro on the hard court was full of endurance-heavy maneuvers and fierce serves. The stylish six-foot-one best-selling author and certified interior designer’s lean and toned physique glided, sprinted and hustled across the blue asphalt in an original sheer aqua blue ensemble trimmed with a purple floral design from the Needlepoint collection of her clothing line, EleVen by Venus Williams.
Rocking rhythmically from side-to-side in anticipation of Bouchard’s serves, Williams’ swift and aggressive right-handed swings attacked the ball. She accompanied that swing letting out her signature grunt. The ESPY Award winner revealed that part of her game is paying close attention to the nuances of her competitors’ performance.
“I haven’t played her [Bouchard] in a number of years,” shares Williams seated with her legs crossed. “She plays a game similar to mine: short strokes, moves around the court well, very competitive. I have to see what’s working tonight. I don’t know exactly what the game plan will be.”
Bouchard says in a later press conference the elder sister of the equally talented Serena Williams is “one of the best players ever.” She remembers her previous matches against Williams as being “really tough matches.” “They were really long three setters,” remembers Bouchard. “It’s always very challenging to play against someone who is so great.”
The extroverted Quebec native adds: “It’s an honor to share a court with a legend, especially considering how well she is still playing,” says Bouchard, echoing Williams calling their game “a practice match.”
“She has such a big and powerful game, so it’s important to be ready for that. Venus’ serve is a huge weapon. It’s a chance to challenge myself and see how far away I am from where I wanna be or what I need to improve to be at a close level of such a great player.”
Williams, now 37, isn’t bothered by age or any potential health issue prohibiting her from maintaining her competitive attitude. Self-care, she says, is what keeps her status as a relevant sports figure. The seven-time Grand Slam singles champion adds she maintains a consistent workout regimen: actively practicing her swing as warmup drills.
Battling the autoimmune disease, Sjogren’s Syndrome, since 2011 hasn’t really affected Williams’ playing. The NAACP Image Award winner says playing a lot of team tennis keeps her energy level and breathing under control, along with actively conditioning and stretching, especially for adapting to various temperatures and geographic regions. When dining, Williams intentionally avoids sugar: favoring healthy proportions of green vegetables.
“You do get older,” advises the relentless trailblazing part-owner of the Miami Dolphins, the first woman-of-color to do so. “Things haven’t changed much for me yet. I just do a lot of preventative things physically, and hopefully that takes out a lot of the issues that could happen in terms of injuries. Mentally, it’s about planning a schedule that’s achievable. It really makes a massive difference.”
Insisting that tennis champions should be good strategists for scoring points, a confident Williams continues: “I know this game. I know how to prepare. I know the ins-and-outs. I just continue down that road. It’s about still trying to improve everyday and add things to my game. That’s what my mindset is.”
Williams reiterates that her record-breaking appearance at this year’s BB&T Atlanta Open was an opportunity for her to raise her personal athletic standards, along with the standards of professional tennis. The advocate for gender equality in the sports industry is proud she can continue to leverage competition with her personal mission to inspire generations of athletes, especially women, to always give their best.
Proclaiming tennis is “a beautiful, awesome game she’ll play forever,” Williams declares in closing that the most rewarding part of tennis is being able to play doubles with and against her younger sister, Serena. “Wow. You can’t play anything better than that,” says Venus. “Those were some awesome matches, and from the times we’ve played, we’ve had a lot of success.”
This post was written by Christopher A. Daniel, pop cultural critic and music editor for The Burton Wire. He is also visiting faculty in the Department of Communication at Georgia State University. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.
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