Venus Williams In Parma: ‘I Love The Game’

Venus Williams (photo: Marta Magna Images/MEF Tennis Events)

PARMA/WASHINGTON, May 17, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

The recent wild card additions of the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, to the 28-player main draw field for the inaugural Emilia-Romagna Open, coupled with Rome semifinalists Petra Martic of Croatia and Coco Gauff of the United States, have turned this WTA 250 outdoor red clay event into an attraction worth keeping an eye on this week in Parma, in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, known for its art, architecture, music and prosciutto.

While Serena bowed in her opening match in Rome last week to Nadia Podoroska of Argentina 7-6 (6), 7-5 and Venus was a last-minute injury withdrawal in the Eternal City, both are eager and excited to remain another week in Italy to hone their clay-court skills and get some match play before the start of Roland Garros in two weeks. Serena is seeded first and Martic and Gauff, ranked 25th and 35th, respectively, are the second and third seeds. Fourth seed is Daria Kasatkina of Russia, who advanced to the second round with 6-4, 6-3 win over Taiwain’s Hsieh Su-Wei on Sunday.

Both of the Williamses will play their first-round matches on Monday. First, the World No. 8 Serena will face 17-year-old Italian qualifier Lisa Pigato, in a featured match on Center Court in the relaxing environment of Tennis Club Parma beginning at 12:30 p.m. (CEST) followed by Venus against 126th-ranked Slovakian qualifier Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

Tennis TourTalk caught up with Venus Williams, who is a certainty to be elected into the International Tennis Hall of Fame once she retires, and asked what continues to drive her as a player. After all, she’s a former World No. 1, who has won five Wimbledon and two US Open singles titles and four Olympic gold medals. Her response was simple and positive: She loves the challenge playing tennis. “I love the game!” she said with a big grin during a virtual interview Sunday afternoon. “I’m having a fun time and the women’s tennis tour is a place I’m proud to play at. All of that.”


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Back in 2007, Williams realized that she wanted to start branching out beyond playing tennis. So, she launched EleVen, with a vision of creating a collection that would enable women to enjoy an active lifestyle and remain fashionable, too, “I love fashion and the idea that I am using my design eduction to actually create clothing and footwear that I will wear on and off the tennis court is a dream come true for me,” she once said.

Meanwhile, back to tennis, where Tennis TourTalk asked Williams if  she considers herself to be a smarter and more knowledgeable player now at age 40 – soon to be 41 next month – than, say, when she was 30 or even 20? Williams said: “I do! I definitely understand more about the game. I think we all have days that we don’t play it smart and we wonder why. But that’s life, right?”

Later, Venus was asked by a reporter what she found inviting about playing in Parma. She said: “We love it. It’s so relaxing and it’s nice to be outside. We’re spending a lot of time in bubbles, obviously, and it can be stressful. Here, it’s relaxing and the members [of the club] are very nice.

“I love Italy and it was an opportunity to stay a little bit longer in the country. Usually, I’m here in [Italy] for a week each year and longing to come back. Also, I want to play matches. I haven’t played a lot this year. I’m playing well, but I need the matches. I just need to play, you know?”

Indeed, Williams, who is currently ranked 87th, has played just six matches in 2021 and has a win-loss record of 2-4, with victories against Arantxa Rus and Kirsten Flipkens. Her losses have come against Petra Kvitova, Sara Errani, Zarina Diyas and Jennifer Brady. The Emilia-Romagna Open is just her fifth tournament of the season.

Finally, Venus was asked if her plans later this season included competing in the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. She exclaimed: “Oh my gosh, we love the Olympics – and we’ve had more success there than I could have dreamed of, to be honest – but right now Covid makes it difficult to look forward. People are asking me about the French Open. Right now, I’m just thinking about this tournament. What happens next is day by day. Honestly, I think that’s how a lot of us are living right now. Ask me in July how I feel about the Olympics.”

Osorio Serrano: Happy to be winning, again

The month of April was a tennis coming out party for 19-year-old Maria Camila Osorio Serrano of Colombia. First, she parlayed a wild card in Bogotá, capital city of her native Colombia, to her first WTA tour-level title by winning five consecutive matches – including a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 title match win over Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia – to lift the trophy at the Copa Colsanitas, a WTA 250 tournament on red clay. The next week, she found herself in the United States playing on green clay at the MUSC Health Women’s Open in Charleston, S.C., where she made a semifinal run that included three straight wins before losing to eventual champion Astra Sharma of Australia.

Now, after time spent home in Cúcuta, Colombia, her hometown,  to rest and train, the 115th-ranked Osorio Serrano has resurfaced in Belgrade, Serbia, where she has earned a main draw berth in the Serbia Ladies Open, a WTA 250 red clay event, after winning a pair of qualifying matches over the weekend. She defeated Dalma Galfi of Hungary and You Xiaodi of China to improve to 19-6 in all competitions. On Monday, Osorio Serrano will play her first-round match in the Belgrade main draw against No. 3 seed Zhang Shuai of China, ranked 43rd.

“I’m happy to be winning again,” Osorio Serrano told Tennis TourTalk on Sunday in a virtual interview. “It means a lot because I was just one [spot] out of the main draw and I really wanted to play here [in Belgrade]. So, it’s really special to come back [to the tour] and have that [winning] feeling again. I’m so happy I managed to win both of my matches.

“The first one I almost couldn’t close, but I’m happy I did it.” Osorio Serrano rallied to beat the 236th-ranked Galfi, 6-3, 6-7, 6-4. “Now, I’m in the main draw and playing good matches, again.”

Tennis TourTalk asked Osorio Serrano what she learned from the experiences of winning her first WTA tour-level title in Bogotá, then following it with a semifinal showing in Charleston. She said: “I think I learned the importance of believing in yourself. You learn to play your best and leave it all on the court. I feel that I’m on that level. Now, I have so much confidence that when I get on the court, I’m not that nervous anymore – like I was in that first match in Bogotá. I just feel confident.”

What they’re telling Tennis TourTalk

Mutua Madrid Open semifinalist Paula Badosa of Spain on how important it was to take a week off tour to rest, relax and have time to prepare for Belgrade and beyond: “I think it was a smart decision. I had a tough week in Madrid. There was a lot of emotions. I needed to rest a few days and then come back and work hard and to have this week of preparation for the next tournament. I think it was the best. Of course, I missed being in Rome, but it was the best decision. I felt quite good today [in my match].”

The 44th-ranked Badosa won her first-round match Sunday in the Serbia Ladies Open over No. 106 Andrea Petkovic of Germany, 6-2, 6-3, in one hour and 20 minutes to advance to the second round against No. 179 Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania.

“One of my goals [this week] is to play every match the same, being the best version of myself,” Badosa said. “I don’t care if it’s a [WTA] 250 or the semifinals of Madrid. So, my goal is to progress every day and that’s what I did. I think it was a pretty good match. It was a high level. Maybe, the result didn’t reflect that level. I think Andrea made it tough, but I played pretty well and felt good on the court.”