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Venus: Inspiration All Around

Venus Williams summed up her mission for the summer hard-court season simply: "Play well."

The 39-year-old Williams made good on her vow snapping a four-match losing streak with a 7-5, 6-2, sweep of compatriot Lauren Davis in Cincinnati today.

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The victory vaults Venus into a second-round showdown with reigning Western & Southern champion Kiki Bertens.

These days, opponents are often autograph seekers asking former world No. 1 Williams for her signature or a selfie after practices or matches.

Venus practice with 17-year-old Cincinnati native Caty McNally yesterday and lost to McNally's doubles partner, Coco Gauff, in her Wimbledon opener last month.

The four-time Olympic gold-medal champion says opponents inspire her to keep playing and continue improving.

"I think my opponents inspire me," Williams said. "I mean, they're good. Each and every single person is just at such a high level that there is no givens. Everyone is playing incredible.

"That's inspiring in itself to see everyone else playing play well, and that means, okay, I have to continue to work and continue to get better."

The fifth-seeded Bertens beat Williams 8-6 in the third set of their last meeting at the 2018. The world No. 62 is anticipating a battle in the rematch.

"I think she does everything well. She competes well, and she's really matured and coming into herself the last few years," Williams said. "That takes a lot of courage to figure those things out, especially kind of more later in your career. It just shows her strength of character, really. 

"I'll definitely see where I can take advantage, but more than anything, if I can play decent, then I have a good chance."

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve