Everyone knows Roger Federer floats across a tennis court like Baryshnikov. Venus Williams seems to float above tennis in her own stratosphere, far beyond us mere mortals. In her stoical way, she’s a minimalist – almost zen.
Her basic take these days seems to be like this: I compete because I’m pretty good at this game, what else would I do? I just come to the tourneys and play, and I enjoy it – plus I have a dog.
Her 24-year career has inspired a gazillion creative comments. For instance, our inventive managing editor, Douglas Hochmuth, figured that on Venus a year only takes 225 Earth days. That means the 38-year-old Williams is actually 62 in Venusian years. Then again, the way she’s been playing prompted some to wonder if she was from Mars – which would make her 20. And that’s the same age she was when she won her first two Slams.
Over the years Venus has told us much, but few of her comments cut to the chase more than this: “Serena and I are exactly the opposite of anything that ever happened before in the game. The old tennis world was pretty reserved, but Serena and I are bold. We stand out. We have color. We’re strong. We’re pretty. We have personality. We think things out. We’re smart.”
Venus fell today to three-time Slam champ Angie Kerber in two sets. Of course, Venus and her sister have had extraordinary careers. Mary Carillo suggested, “This woman and her sister dance on the edge of a volcano more than any other champs I’ve watched.”
VENUS QUESTIONS: What if Venus had taken her Dad’s long-ago advice and quit tennis in her twenties to start a career in computers?…How would Venus’ career and tennis itself have been different if she hadn’t chosen to boycott Indian Wells for 15 years?…What if, like Martina Navratilova, Venus had been a serve and volleyer?…To what degree is Venus still dealing with her autoimmune disease, Sjogren’s Syndrome?…As Chris Evert asked, will this be the last BNP Paribas Open for Venus?…What would tennis be like if Venus and her sister hadn’t come by?…As we often say, is there a better story in tennis than the emergence of Venus and Serena from a single room in Compton?
“I SAID WHAT I SAID”: After her 7-6, 6-3 loss, a reporter told Venus, “You have had a wonderfully successful athletic career, you have earned a college degree, you have a design business, a large, loving family and a lovely home. You have so many things nobody could ever dream of, yet the other night you said you had ‘no life.’ How do you figure?”
As has long been the case, Venus chose not to open up and let us know what’s really going on in her life. She protected herself. Williams reply was simple – she quipped, “I said what I said.”
BRIGHT SPOTS: Venus had a tough 2018. She split with her longtime coach David Witt and it was the first time since 2013 that she didn’t finish in the top 20. But when she downed two-time Slam champ Petra Kvitova it was her first win over a top-five player since 2017.
THE BIG BUCKS: Venus surpassed $20 million in career earnings the same year 18-year-old semifinalist Bianca Andreescu turned pro. She now has made over $41 million in prize money.
“Pliskova is more slow-twitch off the court than she is on the court.” – Lindsay Davenport
“She sees her opponent come into the net and says, ‘This is my point.’” – Chris Evert on semi-finalist Angie Kerber
“Those are two words I never thought I would hear in the same sentence – Federer and deceleration.” – Ted Robinson
“Venus is so unpredictable tonight. She’s throwing Kerber off. She’s throwing me off.” – Chris Evert
RAT PACK NIGHT IN THE DESERT: It’s Rat Pack Night in Indian Wells, which brings to mind our favorite Rat Pack story. The late-great comedian Alan King recalled that Ol’ Blue Eyes and Frank Shields (Brooke’s granddad) once went to conductor Tommy Dorsey’s Connecticut estate to play tennis. Instead of joining the others on court, Sinatra sat under a tree, sipping whiskey. After a while, the Chairman yelled out, “You want to quiet that racket? All that noise is interfering with my drinking.”
JUST WONDERING: What’s more mind-boggling, 18-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu, who was outside the top 150 two months ago, emerging out of nowhere to reach the semis, or Croatia’s 40-year-old Ivo Karlovic, who makes other elders like Venus, Serena and Roger look like newbies, reaching the fourth round?
DON’T BELITTLE BELINDA: Belinda Bencic lifted the trophy last week in Dubai and has won 10 matches in a row. The 22-year-old has six wins over top ten players in the last month, including over Osaka, Kvitova and Halep. Healthy and fitter than she’s ever been, InsideTennis.com feels she has a 37.5 percent chance of winning the title Sunday.
THIRD SET MAGIC: Belinda Bencic is 8-1 while playing third sets this year, which is considerably better than the other semifinalists Kerber (3-2), Svitolina (5-3), and Andreescu (6-3).
POLE VAULTING: Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz started the year No. 88. If he beats Federer tomorrow he’ll jump to No. 41.
ME-OH-MERE: Serb Miomir Kecmanovic could be a name we’ll get to know. He is the youngest quarterfinalist at the tourney since Novak and Andy Murray in 2007. BTW: We hope Kecmanovic sends Kevin Anderson a thank you card. The South African’s withdrawal allowed the 19-year-old entry into the tourney.
TIME FLIES: Rafa Nadal has long played with a Richard Mille watch on his wrist worth nearly a million dollars. Mille also sponsored Sascha Zverev a couple of years ago. But at Indian Wells, the Millie logo was missing from the German’s shirt and he was watchless. Perhaps this explains his “untimely” departure.
BIG ASK FOR BIG JOHN: Last year’s Miami champ John Isner will likely have to reach the Miami final to stay in the top ten.
(Additional reporting by Douglas Hochmuth)