As Serena Williams returns, Venus says her game hasn't left
FILE - In this Feb. 11, 2018, file photo, United States' Serena Williams returns a shot against the Netherlands during a doubles match in the first round of Fed Cup tennis competition in Asheville, N.C. Tennis great Chris Evert expects new mom Serena Williams will eclipse the Grand Slam record of 24 singles titles, maybe even this season. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)
By Brian Mahoney, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Venus Williams gave a scouting report on her warmup partner that sounded the same as always.
Serena Williams is back, and her game hasn't left.
"She's got power, depth. She knows how to play," Venus said. "Yeah, awesome game."
The Williams sisters were the headliners Monday night in the Tie Break Tens tournament in Madison Square Garden, an eight-woman event in which all matches were 10-point tiebreakers, instead of the usual games and sets.
Serena was playing her first singles match of the year as she prepares to return to the WTA Tour for the first time since giving birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., on Sept. 1. The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion would later tell Vogue Magazine in an interview that she developed several small blood clots in her lungs after giving birth.
She had played just once this year, losing a Fed Cup doubles match with Venus last month, and hasn't played a singles match on tour since winning the 2017 Australian Open, where she beat Venus in the final.
Serena returns this week in Indian Wells, California, and her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, told WTATennis.com he had high expectations for the three remaining Grand Slam tournaments this season. He said he sees the same determination in practice, but wouldn't know if being a mother had changed her until he saw her competing.
Venus already knows what to expect.
"I mean, the matches are definitely a good way to know where you are, but obviously she knows how to play," the 37-year-old Venus said. "She's going to bring that instinct on the court with her, so I don't think she's too worried about that."
Tie Break Tens held its first tournament in the U.S. after five events in Europe and Australia. The remainder of the field included Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine, the highest-ranked player at No. 4; American CoCo Vandeweghe; China's Zhang Shuai; Sorana Cirstea of Romania; Marion Bartoli of France, the 2013 Wimbledon champion who is ending a 4 ½-year retirement; and Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia, who retired last year.
Vandeweghe, a New York native, jumped at the chance to play at MSG. Her grandfather, Ernie, and uncle Kiki, now an NBA executive, both played for the New York Knicks.
"I didn't have to think too long," he said. "Once I was asked by my coach, Pat (Cash), if I was going to be available around that time, I said, 'Yeah, I'll make myself available.' So it didn't take much thinking."
She was on the U.S. team in last month's victory over the Netherlands in North Carolina and enjoys seeing both Williams sisters still playing well. Venus reached two Grand Slam finals in 2017 and returned to the top five of the rankings.
She competed Monday night just a few days after the 20th anniversary of her first WTA Tour title in Oklahoma City as a 17-year-old. Many players have taken up the sport in years since because of the Williams sisters, and Venus hoped more might be interested in this format since they were.
"If that's the result, yeah, that would be great," she said. "I hope that is the result, that this is a lot of excitement and more people start playing. It's a great sport. The sport is great for everyone of all ages."