Venus Williams

Starting the New Year Down Under

My 2013 season started a few days before 2013 began. For the first time in my career, I am competing in the Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia. It is a cool format. I am on a team with John Isner representing the U.S. We each play a singles match and then we play a mixed doubles match. We are guaranteed like six matches and the competition is very good.

The tournament started in a crazy way for me. I made a mistake in my travel arrangements and arrived in Australia a day later than I planned, which meant that I landed about 24 hours before I played my first match. I have never done that before, and I won’t do it again!

Australia is one of the few places I think I could live. I love the heat, l hate being cold, and I like to wear flip-flops as much as possible. So I don’t mind that Australia is going to be my home for the month of January. After the Hopman Cup I fly to Melbourne for the Australian Open. I didn’t make it here last year and in the last 12 months I worked really hard to improve my ranking, so I am pretty happy to be back. Also, I am excited to wear my new clothes. Maybe a little too excited. I think I spent too much time doing my hair before the first match! I need to get focused on the tennis.

Maybe it was the jet lag or the fact that I haven’t competed since October, but it took me a minute to settle in for my first singles match. I lost the first set but then I found my rhythm. The third set felt really good. John lost his match to the South African player so it came down to the doubles. John has a slight knee injury but we were able to put them away in two sets.

That first day was long. I got to the courts at 8:00 AM and left around 5:00 PM. I was straight wiped out afterwards. Overall though, I am feeling pretty good these days, much better than this time last year. I don’t really have bouts of fatigue or joint pain anymore, unless I really push myself and I have learned not to do that, or at least I try not to. I am not perfect but I have really improved a lot.

Our second round was a bit like our first but even more dramatic. John lost his match and then I lost the first set and the first three games of the second set. My opponent, Mathilde Johansson, hits the ball so low and fast that it took me that long to figure out her style. It was a tough match, but I just focused on working on my game, honing the skills that I have been practicing since Thanksgiving. It paid off. Then, John and I beat the French team in our doubles match. Now we face the team from Spain in the semi-finals.

I like the team dynamic in this tournament. It is extra motivation for me to win my match. In that way, it reminds me of the Olympics or the WTT. I really do try to add to the team. For me, it’s always important to carry my own weight.