Venus Williams‘ first experience with World TeamTennis came when, as a child, she attended a clinic hosted by Billie Jean King. On Tuesday, Williams took the court for the Washington Kastles’ season opener after hosting a clinic of her own, giving local students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for instruction from an elite player.
“These kids are motivating for me because I was in their situation once, crazily enough, in the ‘80s,” Williams said. “I went to a World TeamTennis clinic with Billie Jean King, and I just remember really wanting to impress her, and I wanted to show her what I could do, and I was running and hitting as hard as I could.”
Players from the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, which was started by the Williams sisters, and the Washington Tennis Education Foundation had the opportunity to run through drills with Williams and other instructors before several of them played a point against her. Many of their shots landed outside her reach, prompting one young boy to gleefully exclaim, “It was luck!”
In a question-and-answer session at the end of the clinic, Williams told the students that the biggest moment of her life was becoming a big sister, that she enjoys playing doubles with sister Serena, that she has won over 500 matches in her career, and that they were her favorite tennis players.
The young players were impressed to learn that she has been playing tennis for 27 years. When one of them asked how old she is, the 31-year-old jokingly replied that she is 15.
In a press conference before the match, Williams said that she has been relaxing since Wimbledon, but she feels prepared for the World TeamTennis season.
“I feel good about my game,” she said. Me being here in general means I’m healthy enough to play, and that’s a huge plus for me.”
She enjoys the format of TeamTennis matches because, due to the scoring system, every game is important in determining the final outcome.
“Every game counts, so even if you don’t win your match, if you get some games for your team, ultimately that can lead to a win for everyone, so everyone has to contribute an equal part,” Williams said. “That’s what really makes it unique. Of course, with fans being so close and music in between, the kids getting autographs — it really helps the game because young people are constantly involved.”
Williams, who has won 21 Grand Slam titles, said she has been grateful for the opportunity.
“It’s been a privilege over the years to try to set a level of the game, and to be able to be at the top of the game, and to continue to try to set a standard,” she said.
Williams‘ rise from a young girl at a World TeamTennis clinic to a superstar is one that she hopes to see players from her clinic duplicate. She has never forgotten the excitement of her clinic with King, and she is proud to have a similar impact.
“It’s so funny — it’s full circle, and now I’m in that position,” Williams said. “It shows how much World TeamTennis gives back, and I love being a part of it.”
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