While her little sister Serena has fallen in love, engaged to be married later this year, Venus Williams has fallen in love recently, too.
She’s in love with an old flame — tennis.
“I definitely feel like I’m peaking in terms of the love level,” Venus Williams said, referring to her happiness on court right now. “I’m enjoying the competition. I like this.”
Her game is showing the love back.
Williams, the 12th seed, faces Elena Vesnina, the 14th seed, in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indians Wells, Calif., on Thursday.
“I know I’m getting closer,” Williams said, according to the event website. “There are eight people left. One of us will win. So the odds are getting better. I have to focus. It’s not there yet. It’s just getting closer. Your mouth starts to water, but it doesn’t mean you’ll get fed.”
GIRLS SPORTS MONTH: See more athlete interviews here
Williams, 36, pointed to her recent run to the finals at the Australian Open as a turning point for her late career. It provided a confidence boost that she didn’t know she’d ever find again.
“The biggest takeaway for me was just even more confidence,” she said, referring to her Aussie run. “That’s the biggest takeaway. I definitely look forward, like, all right, I want to build on that and continue to play well and to just improve my game, which is what I worked on. So I’m not necessarily living in the past. It just makes me more excited for the future.”
With all of Venus’ accomplishments in the world of tennis, she has never won the tournament at Indian Wells. It’s an empty spot in her trophy case that she laments, particularly being a Southern California girl.
After winning her initial match at the tournament, she reflected for a moment about how much things have changed at this tournament in the 16 years since the incident that led she and her sister Serena to boycott the event for so long.
In 2001, the Williams sisters were scheduled to face each other in the semifinals, but Serena had to pull out with an injury. A packed crowd was not happy the match was cancelled and booed the Williams family. When Serena returned for the final and Venus and father Richard went to grab a seat in the crowd, more boos rained down on them, and according to the Williams family, so did some racial epithets.
The sisters vowed never to return to the tournament and they didn’t. Serena came back in 2015 and felt welcomed. She relayed the message to Venus and she returned last week.
“It’s wonderful to see how the tournament has developed, which is great for tennis,” Venus said after her first match this year. “It’s huge. People come from all over the world to be here. It’s fan friendly. I love that. I love being a part of that. What else can I say? The past is the past, but I’m happy that I was able to move forward and everyone was able to move forward. I had so much support today. Yeah, it was nice to get a win here after so very long. It’s very rewarding.”
Venus is playing with a bandage wrapped around her left hamstring, and a soft brace around her right elbow. But much like her general outlook, she’s OK with her health, and she’s not a fan of repeat doctor visits.
“Life is good. I can’t complain,” she said when asked about her physical well-being. “I can’t go to the doctor and say, ‘What is wrong with me?’ I already know. So I don’t want to go to the doctor. I just want to play.”
Contributing: USA TODAY Sports
See more amazing girls and women at women.usatoday.com