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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Tuesday August 18, 2020

Many players become stubborn as they get older, and play predictably rather than embracing a fresh approach to the sport. Others simply retire, believing they’ve lost whatever it was that once made them an effective pro. Not Venus Williams. All turning 40 has done for the legendary American is inspire her to continue to evolve as a professional, and keep fighting to put her best foot forward, every single day.

Tennis Express

We saw that last week at the Top Seed Open in Lexington, where Venus restarted her season after a five-month hiatus with a revamped serve and played eye-catching tennis in her first-round victory over Victoria Azarenka as well as her hard-fought second-round loss to her sister Serena.

Venus has been keeping busy during the quarantine, running her two businesses remotely and conducting IG Live workouts (which have been highly entertaining), but busy days haven’t stopped the seven-time major champion from approaching her tennis with renewed purpose and fresh perspective.

Williams said she made some changes to her game during the break because, well, there was time to see them through.

“Tennis is a marathon, you basically play ten and a half months a year, you get six weeks off but those six weeks are pretty much on the court, there is no time to really rethink what you want to do or make changes – there’s just not enough time,” Williams said. “So I used this off-season – forced off-season – to just reevaluate what I really wanted in my game. You’ve got time just to make a few tweaks here and there and that’s what I did. I’m quite happy with it, obviously the more matches I play I think the better I’ll get at it.”

Williams, who is now being coached by Eric Hechtman, only faced one break point against one of the world’s best returners in Azarenka in the first round – not a bad start. Things naturally got more complicated against Serena in the second round, but even her kid sister was impressed with Williams’ new delivery after she edged Venus 6-4 in the third last week in Lexington.

“I saw the changes that she made and I think they are great changes, I think her coach Eric is doing an amazing job and she’s playing unbelievable,” Serena said, adding: “Her serve is even better than before. It has a faster kick to it, it’s a lot harder. She’s hitting some big serves and some big aces.”

Williams has opened up her serve’s stance, widening the distance between her feet before her toss. Some say she has tinkered with her forehand stroke production as well as re-thinking her positioning on the court.

Those are a lot of changes for a veteran player to make all at once, but Williams has made them smoothly, and it’s a credit to her that she is showing a willingness to regain an edge that she feels she may have lost on some of her strokes. It's no secret that Williams’ serve is legendary for its sheer pace, but it can be erratic. The decision to change the mechanics, some believe, will give her a more repeatable motion and enable her to dictate more with her ground game behind the serve - if she can place it consistently.

Time will tell, but however things turn out, Williams continues to be an inspiration on tour beyond her 40th birthday. With a wide open field in New York this summer, she could be in place to make a splash.


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