Venus Williams returns to Atlanta, edges Bouchard in exhibition


The first women’s match in BB&T Atlanta Open history featured one of the most well-renown names in sports. Venus Williams, 37, faced Genie Bouchard, 23, in an exhibition match on Sunday at Atlantic Station, kicking off the week-long men’s event.

Williams won the match, 6-4, 7-6. The second set went into a tie-breaker (7-4).

It was Williams’ first match in Atlanta since a 2004 exhibition against her sister, Serena.

“Atlanta is a really huge tennis town,” Williams said. “So I know that there’s going to be a lot of excitement today. … Tennis is well supported here. The town’s been really fortunate to have a lot of great men’s tennis here. But also American players who come support the event, love the event.”

Williams has been thinking about visiting Atlanta for a while.

“It’s been a long, long time,” she said. “But more than anything, I’ve been looking forward to the tennis here. So I’ve been playing a ton more and preparing for this match.”

Williams said she loves that the tournament is located in the middle of the city. She feels it helps the sport’s exposure and makes for a more engaged audience.

One of the challenges facing Atlanta Open competitors is the temperatures. It can be grueling to play in the Southern heat, though that’s not a new concept to Williams.

“I live down in Florida,” she said, laughing. “The heat is not fun, so you have to have some sort of special character to get through the hot days. Pray for a night match.

“You try not to think about the pain, you think about the result. These are two, two-and-a-half hours of my life. So how am I going to handle just this? It’s definitely not easy to win though.”

Williams said she’s never participated in a gender barrier-breaking match, but that it’s exciting to be part of something so meaningful.

“When we decided to add women this year, there was really only one choice for us,” said Eddie Gonzalez, the Atlanta Open’s director and chief development officer. “And that was our great American champion, former U.S. Open champion Venus Williams.”

Williams has faced Bouchard twice previously, in 2013 and 2014. The two split the meetings.

“I haven’t played her in a number of years,” Williams said before the match. “So it’s been a while. She plays a game that’s similar to mine. She’s short-strokes, moves around the court well, very competitive. So I’ll have to see what’s working tonight because I haven’t played her in so long. So I don’t know exactly what the game plan will be.

“It’s an opportunity for us to play great tennis, and to be very loose. Just to be entertaining.”

Bouchard agreed.

“It’s an honor to share a court with such a legend,” she said before the match.“Especially considering how well she is still playing. She almost just won Wimbledon, she’s amazing. It’ll be such an honor. And I heard we’ll get a good crowd tonight so I’m super excited.”

Reflecting on her career, Williams glowed when speaking of her doubles matches with Serena, referring to them as a “perfect storm.” As up-and-comers flood the tennis scene, the veteran said she’s not ready to pass the torch just yet.

“We do get older,” she said. “Things haven’t changed so much for me yet. Just, you know, human spirit, human body can be very competitive. That’s kind of what I’m experiencing now. I love this game.

“I know this game. I know how to prepare, the ins and outs. So I just continue down that road. I still try to improve every day.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

What they said: Jim Delaney speaks at Big Ten Basketball Media Day
What they said: Jim Delaney speaks at Big Ten Basketball Media Day

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney spoke to the media at Big Ten Basketball Media Day on Thursday. Here’s what he had to say: The commissioner started off by saying he was happy to be at Madison Square Garden. He then welcomed the new coaches into the league. He also said the conference tournament will be moving back to the midwest in Chicago...
Recruiting rivalry: Tennessee, Alabama go head-to-head for top 2018 recruits
Recruiting rivalry: Tennessee, Alabama go head-to-head for top 2018 recruits

The third Saturday in October meeting between Tennessee and Alabama brings plenty of intrigue to the field, but the recruiting battles can be just as exciting. Tennessee coach Butch Jones’ job security has come into question over the past few weeks, and teams from across the country have begun trying to flip commits from...
Clemson recruiting: How much does Georgia’s resurgence hurt Tigers’ recruiting?
Clemson recruiting: How much does Georgia’s resurgence hurt Tigers’ recruiting?

There’s something in these hills, and Sam Butler and the DieHards team have you covered on the Clemson recruiting trail as the defending national champions reload. Check here every Monday-Friday to stay on top of the latest news, and find every previous edition of the daily recruiting notebooks  ...
TCU ranked No. 1 team in college football by FEI
TCU ranked No. 1 team in college football by FEI

Is No. 4 TCU actually the best team in college football? The rankings and initially eye test would say no, that honor belongs to the Alabama Crimson Tide, per usual. But in an era where advanced metrics paint an increasingly detailed picture, the Horned Frogs have a say in the race for college football’s top spot. In fact...
Iowa LB Josey Jewell’s physicality would make him successful in any era
Iowa LB Josey Jewell’s physicality would make him successful in any era

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Pat Fitzgerald plopped down next to Kirk Ferentz at Big Ten Media Days. Iowa highlights flashed across a nearby television screen. It was a steady stream of linebacker Josey Jewell crushing ball carriers. The two men discussed the Iowa senior and it led to Fitzgerald, a former All-American linebacker, to a revelation...
More Stories