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By Erik Gudris | Sunday, January 25, 2015

 
Venus Williams

Venus Williams has many lives on and off the court. But her recent AO run proves she's here to stay in tennis for as long as she wants to.

Photo Credit: Corleve

When Venus Williams won her 46th career title a few weeks ago in Auckland, she told the excited crowd a secret. "I have a lot of trophies first and second and what have you. But there's only a few I keep in my room because I love tennis and it is my life but it's not everything to me, because it's not my whole life."

Australian Open: Day 8 Preview

For a while, many thought Williams and her tennis life would come to a conclusion very soon. After being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, Williams struggled and soared and struggled again on the court. While we admired her fortitude, the lingering thought was that she would exit the sport gracefully after having dominated it, along with her sister Serena Williams, for so many years.

Yet, so far this new season, Williams is soaring again. She has yet to lose a match and now finds herself in the second week of the Australian Open. The first time she's been at such a stage at a major since Wimbledon in 2011, the same year she was diagnosed with her illness. Now closing in on the top ten again, some are even talking of Williams as a potential dark horse for the Melbourne title, something very, very few would have dared even a year ago.

Being in the second week is great for Venus. But she wants more. That's why she keeps playing. While her other off-court lives satisfy her, Venus still believes she can still win the biggest prizes in her sport and that her tennis life isn't complete yet.

"I said this the other day: For me, I like to win titles. I like to win titles, whether it's a smaller event or a big event. That's what I play for," Williams said after her third round win over Camila Giorgi. "So, yes, great, it's great to be in the second week. But is fourth round my goal when I come to these tournaments? No."

The goal for Williams remains to win titles. But how much longer can she keep going? Even she is realistic.

"By the time you're 34 you have a lot of experience and if you can stay in shape, stay fit, can move and hit the ball and don't have five kids at home then why not?" Williams said in Auckland on the subject of retirement. "There's nothing holding me back from being here and doing well. Of course I can't play forever. Someone else has to take the torch at some point. While I'm here I'm enjoying it."

Enjoying being on the court and competing appears to be just as important to Williams as staying healthy. She also doesn't have to face any of the pressure that her younger sister and current No. 1 deals with herself of trying to stay on top and continue her quest for tennis immortality by winning her 19th major singles title. Though the elder Williams has often been out of the spotlight over the years as her sister won more majors than she did, Venus finds motivation from her little sister everyday.

"I've been motivated by Serena though since day one, since 1998 or '97 actually. She's always been I think someone that anyone can learn from. The way she faces her life, the way she is fearless on the court, it's just -- I don't know anyone who doesn't learn from her. So of course I think I probably take it a lot more to heart because she's my sister and we've had the fortunate relationship to be able to motivate each other and grow from each other."

Both sisters motivate each other. Yet Venus Williams, who has many lives off court, finds herself in a new role as a motivational figure for many. Despite the calls a few years ago from some for Venus to stop, she kept on going. Sharing her ups and down in a very public way, which was likely not easy for her given that she has often been a very private, often enigmatic person, made us see more sides to Venus than we had before. We were used to the poker faced fearless competitor. But lately, we’ve been able to enjoy her more open, often funny off the court personality especially in her post-match interviews. Watching her persevere and triumph, on her terms, is something anyone could apply to their own life, whether they play tennis or not.

When asked how she got through her match against Giorgi the other day, Williams said, "Well this old cat has a few tricks still left.” Like a cat that has nine lives, Williams's life on the tennis court isn't ending just yet until she is ready. And that's why we all should savor watching her try and roar her way back into the elite tier of the game one more time.

 

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