Venus Williams: I still feel 26
Originally published on 28/06/16 00:00
The American arrived at Wimbledon only five days ago and has not played any grass events prior to coming into the Championships. At 36, Williams, who last won a title at the All England Club in 2008, is the oldest woman in the draw. She played with strapping on her left thigh but she insists that she feels as good as ever.
“I still feel 26,” she said. “You know I don't think anyone feels older, you have this infinity inside of you that feels like you could go forever. That’s how I feel on court. As long as I am halfway decent, can get my racket on a ball I think I can make something happen.”
Williams admits her post match routine has changed – “I do a lot of stretching. I stretch a lot heavier now because I feel rejuvenated afterwards” – but she says she is still learning. She pointed to her last match – her fourth round defeat to Timea Bacsinszky at Roland Garros as her latest lesson.
“You learn every single time,” she said. “That’s the thing, you never stop. You never reach the perfect equation in sports, I don’t think, in tennis. There’s always a loss round the corner that you’ve got to learn from.”
With 17 years separating the pair, it was the first time Vekic had faced Williams. The Croatian, who celebrates her 20th birthday on Tuesday (28th June), served for the opening set at 5-4, but was not able to take her chances and Williams’ experience proved key in the tiebreak. And in an equally close second set Williams managed to break for 5-4 and serve out the match.
“You have to be there every point, you can’t slip up just for a minute because champions take everything, every little opportunity they grab it,” Vekic said. “I had a lot of respect for her today she has achieved amazing things. I don’t think people really give her enough credit for what she has done, probably because she is sister of Serena. It must be tough.
“She’s older now and maybe not playing as good as before. But she’s still won it five times.”
Vekic was seven years old she remembers watching Williams and sister Serena playing the 2003 final, which Serena won in three sets.
“I was watching it at home and I remember this I had just started playing tennis and it was amazing,” she recalls. “It was inspirational.”
Williams will be playing doubles with sister Serena at Wimbledon this year. The sisters, who have won the title here on five occasions, most recently in 2012, face Slovenian No.11 seeds Andreja Klepac and Katarina Srebotnik in the first round. The pair have been training hard with the Rio Olympics on the horizon – they have set their sights on a third Olympic women's doubles gold after victory in Beijing in 2008 and in London four years ago.
“We started practising a lot more doubles to make up for the time we haven’t had the chance to play,” said Venus. “Our goal is to peak in Rio.”
But first Williams turns her attention to her second round match against Greek qualifier Maria Sakkari. And you’d be surprised if the seven-time major champion, who is making her 71st appearance in a Grand Slam main draw, does not extend her incredible winning percentage at the All England Club. Her record of 77 wins and 13 defeats at Wimbledon is the fourth highest in the Open era, and second among active players, trailing Serena with a 79-10 record.
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