Welcome back Venus Williams. On the one hand, yes, I am happy that you are back. You are great for women’s tennis. The WTA benefits from your appearance at events. The sport itself is grateful that you are choosing to hang around. Fans show up by the thousands to watch you play because you bring a level of athleticism to the sport that has raised the bar and embarrassed many of your opponents into fitness. Even non-fans tune in to see how badly you will whup their faves. Or at least to eye what you are wearing because you are always guaranteed to be dressed like no one else.
But there is one question I’d like to ask Venus Williams if I could. I know that she would not answer because her nature has always been private. So even if I were to show up at a post-match interview in Miami, I probably won’t waste the breaths asking her this, because I know that her reply would be something canned and inauthentic. But I hope that there are people close to her to whom she would answer this question honestly.
And my question is this: “Why are you doing this?” And the reason I would ask is because she makes playing tennis seem so joyless and painful. I like her determination to win -- especially in that third set against Kvitova -- but I can’t help but wonder if this is the right thing for her to be doing at this time, given the apparent fragility of her health.
In September 2011 Venus informed the tennis world that she had been diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome, a a rare auto-immune disease that diminishes energy levels and causes fatigue and joint pain. Not six months later she is back on the tennis court under the sweltering heat and intense competition of Miami. My question is, why?
Is it that her condition is not that serious? In which case she owes her fans this information so that they will not worry about her. After all, initial announcements described this as a chronic condition. What did she do to cure herself of it in less than six months? I’m sure that there are medical minds that seriously want to know.
Or is Venus wanting to show the world that being diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome does not have to be a death sentence? In which case part of me says more power to her, even as the other part is wondering if she may be being somewhat foolhardy.
Because surely it’s not the money. Venus is rich as dirt. And besides, Richard had predicted that his daughters would abandon tennis to become business-women by now. Venus has tried her hand at interior decorating and fashion design. Did these businesses fail? Is tennis her only resort? Are there slews of people she is supporting?
What’s the benefit to her for playing tennis at this time? Did she miss the spotlight? Is she addicted to our attention? Does she really believe that she can win Slams again when it took her three sets and almost three hours to put away the 65th ranked Wozniak (whom everyone kept calling Wozniacki, which must be majorly annoying)?
Or is Venus playing for the mere love of the sport? I certainly hope that this is the case. The fanatic in me gets that. That’s because I love tennis and hope to play until I am old and rickety. But if Venus loves tennis that much, can she tell me why playing it always seems to be such a grim joyless experience for her?
There is so much intensity to her matches, so much screaming, so much emotional pushing of self to the brink. Surely that cannot be good for her overall health? Surely wherever and whomever they are, her medical providers must be telling her that the mind and body affect each other, and that anything that causes her to be so mentally worked-up cannot at all be good for a body that is busy attacking itself?
So if she is out there only because of her love of the sport, would Venus mind terribly dialing down the screaming and occasionally putting a smile on her face? That would enhance my enjoyment very much. And it might even work wonders for her health.