WASHINGTON – Three days after losing the Wimbledon final, Venus Williams sported the same look – the classy white dress and white visor.
Everything else was very different. This was World Team Tennis in a temporary stadium built on a parking lot in downtown D.C., not the hallowed grounds of the All England Club. This was doubling over in laughter when the coach of the other team threw the challenge flag, not the intensity of trying to win a Grand Slam against her sister.
For the second year in a row, the losing Williams sibling from the Wimbledon title match took just two days off before playing in the nation’s capital. Last year, Serena Williams had to deal with a whirlwind travel schedule to fulfill her obligation with the Washington Kastles. This year, by coincidence, Venus’ itinerary on Tuesday included a road appearance with her Philadelphia Freedoms against the Kastles.
“My prep every year for Team Tennis is Wimbledon,” Venus said with a smile, “so I have the best preparation every year.”
Although their teams were playing each other, anyone hoping for a quick Williams rematch was out of luck. The marquee players make only spot prescheduled appearances for their teams; Serena’s only home match for the Kastles comes next week.
“I guess they take us one at a time,” Venus Williams said when asked if she was pining for a rematch. “I’m sure we’ve have many more matches.”
So the fans had to be content to watch Venus, ranked No. 3 in the world, play a set against 241st-ranked Olga Puchkova. Williams won 5-2, then teamed with Nathan Healey to win a mixed doubles set 5-3 and with Lisa Raymond to win the women’s doubles 5-2. The Freedoms won the match 23-16, with Williams a standout not only because of her talent but also because she was the only player on her team not wearing Philadelphia’s white-and-blue uniform.
“It’s kind of a no-brainer to be here,” Williams said. “I’m really enjoying myself because I’m trying to win for my team. … I guess I’m an old Team Tennis veteran now. I realize if I fumble a couple of times, they won’t mind. They’ll root me on the whole time.”
Of course, the switch from Wimbledon to WTT meant adjusting to the league’s unusual scoring rules. In the WTT, for example, every game is played to four points – with no ads.
Williams prefers it the other way.
“It’s kind of interesting to see who will choke and who won’t,” she said. “I’m fine with the deuce.”
Before taking the court, Williams participated in a clinic with 52 local kids and performed the usual glad-handing inside the hospitality tent, impressing everyone in her wake. During the match, she chatted with spectators during breaks, took part in an on-court interview with a young fan and smiled often throughout the evening, playing the part of star celebrity to a T.
“I would put her in the cornerback position,” said local legend Darrell Green, who played that very position himself for 20 seasons with the Washington Redskins. “Because she’s got to have that kind of footwork, that kind of movement. The other reason is that every time I line up on someone, I don’t know where they’re going. She doesn’t know where the ball is going.”