Venus Williams brings her greatness to the City Open.

Venus Williams brings her greatness to the City Open.


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A sellout crowd comes to Rock Creek Park Tennis Center on Monday night. There on the main court, fans will watch seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams make her City Open debut. There will be applause at first sight, shouts following her winners, and everyone from box seats to arrivals united in witnessing greatness at work.

But on Friday, he was to experience greatness.

In the morning silence, the stadium comes back to life. A young worker rushes around placing postcards around the lower bowl, two people walk through the flower arrangement and place one behind each player’s bench. A forklift carries boxes and crates of Jose Cuervo. Workers paint the steps leading to the courthouse fresh blue and red.

And there’s Venus, tall and lean and dressed in emeralds, kicking balls after 10 o’clock.

It’s a private session, two hours in the main court reserved for herself and a handful of her trainer, a massage therapist, and a seemingly grown-up for security. This Venus is her best friend at court, the icon in quiet hours pays tribute to her greatness. It still needs to be cared for and well-adjusted and treated with respect. Talented people don’t take it for granted, so there she is – at 42 years old and with no proof – she’s still working. And she’s drawing audiences.

Three photographers supported fans in different areas of the venue. Holding up their cellphones has delayed the distraction of employees because even while on the clock, they want confirmation of what’s happening in front of them. A man in a red bandana sits next to a woman holding a sleeping baby. Above them, sat a mocha skinned girl with long legs and hair in braids. She is here to witness greatness.

Venus was returning balls from both her coaches and hitting partner for the day, local player Leon Settles. It must have felt like waking up and getting the call that Ginger Rogers needed a tap dance partner. Settles has admired Venus for a long time, so although he hides it well, at first he is cunning at court. He greets Venus before they start hitting on him, but when he learns that Settles is here to work, he warns himself not to smile unless he smiles at her first.

But even Settles can’t help himself during a short break. He put down one of the tennis balls that had touched Venus’ racket and handed it to the little girl with the braids. He knows that greatness must be shared.

“Because it was a little nerve-wracking [Venus] It changed my life. A lot of black kids and I’m sure a lot of Americans, period. “Many of us looked up to Venus and her sister Serena,” Settles would later say. “So it was a dream to be on my home court and beat a legend herself. I can’t even describe it.”

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He pauses, searching for the right words. But I understand. Being close to greatness can make you lose your composure.

Venus turned away as her coach launched a ball. Squinting her eyes, she searched for the lost ball but all she could find was the closest person – me. And I’m cold.

Venus’s practice nearly a year before her first single hit the fate of the slow-moving columnist’s no-nonsense milestones: “Should I get this? Should I get that ball? ” But finally I swung into action and, for reasons I still can’t explain, lifted the missing prize over my head like a Wimbledon ball girl. I threw the ball back to Venus, feeling like I had passed a fallen brush for Monet. She scanned it and asked, “Where’s the second one?” she replied.

Her strength is up, and now she’s pulling the ball. Her coach serves and returns with a vengeance. Returning the serve after serving with the basic ground. For more than two decades, she has worked through the tedious repetition of public courts in Compton, California, with her father and younger sister.

Even after reaching No. 1 in the world 20 years ago and winning a total of 49 singles titles, she still maintains her principles. 79 degrees is not the normal 79 degrees in Washington, so sweat begins to darken her green dress. Instead, the 79 degrees in Washington is hot and sticky and feels like standing at the top of a long, winding staircase to hell. Therefore, she needs rest.

After about 30 minutes, she sat down, took out her towel, reached into her red Wilson bag, and called. But she did not see him for a long time and put a handful of wine, then a peach. Her coach sat next to her, but Venus continued to stare straight ahead, holding a snack in her right hand. Her stance doesn’t change when her trainers show up and start beating her with Settles. You don’t follow the baaanggg and baaahhhp of the service and returns. At this point it should feel like white noise to her. She is closed and staring straight ahead.

She returned to the court and the barrister hired for the day, Michael Hensley, entered the stadium. He hears her practicing and brings his cell phone. Hansley, 35, said he grew up admiring the Williams sisters and after seeing the biopic based on their father “King Richard” — four times and counting — he was even more inspired. “Venus, I love you!” This explains why he was the only one brave enough to shout.

She smiled and waved in his direction.

“It was beautiful. It’s indescribable,” Hansley said of watching her practice for a few minutes. “It’s very beautiful. Just to watch her play, warm up or whatever. I wanted him to shoot at her. I didn’t want to get in trouble though.

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“I brought mini-me,” says Iain as he welcomes Venus, who previously played for Castles.

She offers him an air hug because of all the sweat and asks Charlie if he likes tennis. She then points to the blue fence where all the City Open winners’ names are displayed. Charlie shows where the name goes.

When the visit with Eins ends, Venus returns to her work. Now, it’s her service. Her process: shifting her weight to her back leg, straightening her front leg and extending her body to throw. Grace and beauty in motion. She finds her trainer and smiles at Settles, who can now smile back.

11:36 am Now it’s time to put it all together and play with Settles. That beautiful service now became a powerful weapon, and Hansley walked back into the meeting with his colleague.

“The greatest he ever did. The greatest!” Hansley said he never took his eyes off Venus.

By noon, she was done. She bypassed most of the curious eavesdroppers. Her quiet work ethic and closeness of commitment witnessed by the contract worker and the millionaire’s son. The unranked assassin partner and the girl on the stand who dreams of one day being in that courtroom.

Before she left, Settles headed to the stands to grab his son. He asked for a photo with Venus and she was all smiles.

“A legend with a legend,” he says.

When the little legend comes of age, his father shows him that picture. And he knows what greatness looks like.



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