Venus Williams is amazing, but you already know that. She’s been a force to be reckoned with for about twenty-three years on and off the tennis court. She has won seven Grand Slam titles and helped boys, girls, women and men develop a love for the game of tennis. She fought relentlessly to secure equal pay for women at Wimbledon and the French Open and has been outspoken about racial injustice. To say she’s an inspiration is an understatement. And in her 37th year on this earth, Venus is still wowing us. Later today she faces American Sloane Stephens, a woman who is thirteen years Venus’s junior, in the semifinals of the US Open. I could easily go on and on about Venus Williams’ great career, but I would rather not. You can Google that. What I would rather do is make sure that you aren’t just looking at Venus Williams and her late-in-her-career-run in awe, but that you are looking and really understand the impact of her journey. I’d rather point out three things you should be learning from and inspired by in Venus’ 2017 season.
Forget the Fat Lady; it’s Not Over Until You Sing
If, in 2013, you would have taken a head count of all of the people who thought Venus Williams was about to or should retire, you probably would’ve lost count. The “Fat Lady” had indeed taken her place on center stage, her vocal chords were warmed up and the maestro had his baton raised ready to cue her. At 33, Venus missed a great deal of the 2013 season battling a persistent back injury and was still learning to cope with the effects of Sjögren’s Sydrome, a potentially debilitating autoimmune disease that causes fatigue and muscle and joint pain. She barely made the Top 50 and that was after finishing the 2011 and 2012 seasons at 102 and 24, respectively. For all intents and purposes, Venus had reached the end of a stellar career.
And yet, four years later, nearing the end of 2017; Venus Williams is one of the top players in the world. This year she has reached the finals of the Australian Open AND Wimbledon, making her first Grand Slam finals appearance since 2009. With tonight’s appearance in the semifinals of the US Open, she has ensured that she will return to a Top 5 ranking in the WTA. Top 5 in the World at thirty-seven years old. Let that sink in.
Moral of the story: Don’t worry about the naysayers. Don’t worry about how grim the circumstances look. If you aren’t ready to call it quits, don’t. Keep fighting and pressing because you control your destiny.
Age Ain’t Nothin’ but a Number
Aaliyah told us back in 1994 and Venus has made sure that you remember it, “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number.” Venus turned pro at the tender of fourteen years old. When most kids were worried about zits and algebra, Venus was executing her #SecureTheBag strategy. Twenty-three years later she, she persists. At thirty-seven, Venus, the oldest woman on the WTA Tour, is competing against and beating women who idolized her when they were growing up. I’m thirty-three and a half and I can barely drag myself out of bed for a run let alone imagine putting in enough work high-level competition. But Venus’ thirty-seven year-old body is still securing the bag and victories.
Moral of the Story: It doesn’t matter how young or old you are; if you have a dream, chase it.
Classiness and Grace are ALWAYS in Style
In addition to being one of the greatest players on tour for over twenty years, Venus the activist, entrepreneur, author and NFL team owner is a fashion designer. She’s been sporting her brand, EleVen, at this year’s U.S. Open and she looks amazing. The Epiphany collection is fashionably colorful and functionally appropriate for the grueling hours on the tennis court. Venus in EleVen works. But what really makes her stand out, what makes her glow is her timeless classiness and grace. If you haven’t already done so, pay attention to Venus’ post-match interviews and press conferences. She remains fiercely competitive but is always mindful of her platform. She is gracious in victory and defeat, acknowledging and giving deference to her competitors while standing in her own greatness. And she consistently expresses her gratitude for her fans, her platform and her support system. In 2017, Venus is the ultimate professional and GladiatHer®.
Morals of the Story: You can bask in your own greatness while acknowledging the greatness in others. Your attitude, your ability to be classy and gracious, will always shine brighter than any outfit you wear.
I really hope you tune in at 7pm to watch Venus Williams and the other three American woman, Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe, show the world what excellence really looks like. You won’t be disappointed and you might learn a thing or two.