Facebook Social Button Twitter Social Button Follow Us on InstagramYouTube Social Button Follow Me on Pinterest
NewsVideosLive ScoresTV ListingsTournamentsRankingsLucky Letcord PodcastMagazine

By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, March 11, 2017

Palm Springs is a popular retirement destination.

Venus Williams transformed the place into a revival ground.

Down a set and 1-4 with adhesive tape snaking around her right arm and wrapping her left thigh, the pained veteran looked like she was in no shape to complete the match let alone create a career day.

More: Kerber Earns First IW Win In Four Years

Despite the aches and pains and scorching heat, the 36-year-old Williams was in no mood surrender.

In a gripping comeback clash of former world No. 1 players, Williams fought off three match points subduing Jelena Jankovic, 1-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1, advancing to the BNP Paribas Open third round for the first time in 16 years.

“I definitely wasn't able to do everything I wanted to,” Williams said afterward. “Took me some time to kind of get my head around that. It was good to get through the match. And I'm not on the schedule tomorrow and just try to get ready for Monday.”

It was an emotional victory for Williams that came 16 years after her last Indian Wells victory and the ugly controversy that ensued.

Back in 2001, Venus pulled out of a scheduled semifinal against Serena with a knee injury, withdrawing minutes before the sisters were set to take the court for a scheduled nationally-televised match on ESPN.

When Serena took the court for the final against Kim Clijsters she was confronted with boos and jeers by some in the crowd. Father Richard Williams revealed some members of the crowd yelled racial taunts at his family, including Venus.

After a 15-year boycott of the tournament, Venus returned last year dropping her opening-round match to Kurumi Nara last March.

Fans embraced Williams screaming their support throughout today's match and she responded with a spirited comeback.

Fighting off three points points in the second set, Venus cranked up her serve and crushed returns in the decider. Williams served 78 percent and won 13 of 18 points played on her serve in the final set.

A listless Jankovic lost all seven points played on her first serve in the decider as Williams disarmed the 2015 finalist.

Forward thinking fueled Venus’ comeback today and marked her post-match press conference.

The physical issues she overcome in today’s comeback were made possible by healing the emotional wounds that stung the Williams family 16 years ago and kept Venus away from the tournament for 15 years.

“It's wonderful to see how the tournament has developed, which is great for tennis. It's huge,” Williams told the media when asked about the emotional comeback. “People come from all over the world to be here. It's fan friendly. I love that. I love being a part of that.

“What else can I say? The past is the past, but I'm happy that I was able to move forward and everyone was able to move forward. I had so much support today. Yeah, it was nice to get a win here after so very long. It's very rewarding.”

An inspired run to the Australian Open final that concluded with a loss to sister Serena infuses the 36-year-old Venus with more confidence and optimism for the future.

“I think the biggest takeaway for me was just even more confidence,” Williams told the media. “That's the biggest takeaway. I definitely look forward, like, all right, I want to build on that and continue to play well and to just improve my game, which is what I worked on. “So I'm not necessarily living in the past. It just makes me more excited for the future.”

That future may include reprising her partnership with younger sister Serena. The four-time Olympic gold medal champion has said she’d like to play the 2020 Tokyo Olympics when she’d be 41 years old.

Informed two-time Indian Wells doubles champion Rafael Nadal said he plays doubles primarily for fun, a smiling Venus replied: “I play doubles for Grand Slam titles, and that's fun.”

Photo credit: @BNPParibasOpen


Latest News