Venus Williams took the court on opening day of the 2014 U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium on what would have been the 87th birthday of black tennis pioneer Althea Gibson. Rolling out asked Williams about that significance. “What she accomplished is something no one else did, to be not only the best player in the world during that time where she had no support and in a time when it was hard to feel good about yourself because who you were was something that was considered inferior. So that was very difficult. I can’t imagine how she felt. She did it with class and she did it with grace. I’m very fortunate not to have had to play under those circumstances. I have had an opportunity to play well and be myself, and because of her, I’m really proud of who I am. Really, what she has done, you know, goes beyond words,” Williams said.
Venus and her younger sister Serena have certainly not had to deal with the issues of Gibson and Ashe, but they have faced challenges as well. “Serena and I played in a different time. I think we played in a different time where you’re able to have opportunities. And people love to be on the side of a winner, so, you know, the things that everyone did, women’s rights, civil rights, all of those things are a different time, thank God. I’m not saying it’s a perfect time, but it is a different time. So, yes, I think that Serena and I influenced lots of young people, lots of African Americans, hopefully all kinds of people all around the world, to live a better life through sports or even if they never played,” Williams said.
Williams, who defeated 43-year-old Kimiko Dale-Krumm in a three-set thriller 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, on Monday, along with her sister Serena, is not ready to pass the baton to younger Americans yet and she isn’t even thinking about retirement. “According to Kimiko I have another decade. She set the prime example. She’s top 100 and no one can beat her easily. Yeah, she’s breaking the mold,” Williams shared.
She also touched on other Americans, without being specific. “I think we have some good Americans … of course I’m always rooting for great American tennis. I’m pretty biased on that,” she said.
Williams also discussed her father, Richard Williams saying,“He’s an unbelievable guy, and I couldn’t thank him more for what he did for our whole family and just giving us an opportunity to play tennis.” She talked about her mom as well, “Thankfully our parents raised us to make our own decisions. Thankfully. And thank God they understood how to protect us when we were younger, but also how to let us also grow at the same time. So I’m sure that’s tricky. I haven’t been a parent, but it has to be tricky to try to protect your kids from the world, try to make the right decisions for them, but also let them move on. So really it was just a perfect combination.”
In addition to her busy tennis career, Williams also has a clothing line, EleVen, as well as a decadelong career as an interior designer. “Both are serious businesses for me. I have been doing interior design for a decade now, and fashion with EleVen since recently, for quite a few years, as well. It’s a lot of work. I love it, and I love a challenge,” she says.
Williams will be back in action on Wednesday at the U.S. Open.