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Update: Venus Williams Addresses Rumours on Being a Virgin

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Venus Williams interview

 

Here I am, sitting waiting for Venus Williams in a hotel room: I keep getting texts from her manager/PR/agent giving me updates — Venus is still on the court. Venus is in the shower. Venus is getting in the car, ooh, no she’s not. Venus is definitely on her way.

 

At long last, she bounds into the room, in head-to-toe white towelling tracksuit and snowy sneakers, waist-length hair in braids whiplashing all and sundry, and she gives me a great big wet kiss.

 

Serena Williams and Venus Williams

Serena Williams (L) and Venus Williams touch rackets after Serena Williams defeated Venus Williams

‘I am so, so sorry,’ she says in her slow, soft drawl, grabbing an armful of grapes (she is always, always hungry). ‘I was working on my shots and I lost all track of time.’

Not many multi-millionaire, spoilt, cosseted superstars apologise for being late, but as it turns out Venus is so controlled, so disciplined, so stifled and imprisoned by her own extraordinary talent.

Take this exchange: What did you do for your 41th birthday (a few weeks ago)? ‘Ummm. I think I was training. I get up real early, I train, I go to the gym, I travel some place, I eat and I sleep. That’s about it.’

Venus and Serena Williams style

Shopping: But now that you’re in off-duty, will you be able to go out and do some shopping, some sightseeing, have dinner in a fancy restaurant?

‘I hope to, maybe, but I don’t know if I’ll get the time off,’ she says doubtfully. ‘I definitely won’t have time for shopping.’

Make-up on court: I ask if she wears make-up on court and she says no, maybe some eyeliner, but she is often too tired to take it off at the end of the day.

Venus Williams instagram

Like most fiercely competitive athletes, she comes across as incredibly meek and mild when off-duty, and is painfully keen to cause no offence to anyone. Yet there is an awful lot bubbling away just below the surface. She is like a coiled spring.

Social side of the game: When it’s suggested that Venus never joins in the social side of the game, she raises her eyebrows (which are in need of a little tweezing — ‘No time,’ she shrugs). ‘I wasn’t aware there was a social side,’ she says. ‘I train and compete and go to bed. There isn’t room for anything else.’

Venus Williams is rumored to be dating Reilly Opelka

Venus Williams is rumored to be dating Reilly Opelka

What about the rumours that today she doesn’t have the drive to win matches?

‘I haven’t lost my will to win,’ she says, exasperated. ‘My ranking in the world [and she reminds me she was the first African-American woman to reach number one].

African-American women: Venus is so well-schooled in how she should behave in interviews that at first, when I venture how well African-American women are doing in the world, citing Condoleezza Rice and Beyonce Knowles and Halle Berry, she gives me the pat answer that she ‘doesn’t see colour’.

Serena and Venus Williams young

Serena and Venus Williams young

She says that: ‘Growing up, my heroes were Monica Seles and Boris Becker. I didn’t feel the need to have a black woman to look up to.’ Was she always hankering after blonde hair like Barbie? ‘I always felt pretty happy in my own skin,’ she says. ‘My first concern wasn’t really whether I was pretty or not.’

But when I dig a little deeper and suggest that the notoriously staid Wimbledon committee has, in the past, treated Venus a little bit shoddily in relegating her to one of the outside courts, she becomes angry.

Venus Williams beauty with ball

‘Listen,’ she says, grasping my arm. ‘When I am out on the court, I am totally focused on my game. I am not even aware of the crowd.

It doesn’t even enter my field of awareness how I am received. Having come through, at the age of six or seven, practising with my sister on a court in South Central LA while getting shot at by gang members, I don’t think a bit of coolness is going to affect my game.’

‘I’m single,’ Venus shouts

Venus Williams is rumored to be dating Reilly Opelka

Venus Williams is rumored to be dating Reilly Opelka

Venus says it is a cause close to her heart. She has always been very vocal about the fact she doesn’t believe in sex before marriage and I ask her if she is dating at the moment.

‘I’m single,’ she shouts, giving a booming laugh.’ Is it hard for me to meet men? Are they intimidated by my person? She guffaws. ‘It’s not that hard,’ she says, ‘although I never meet men on the circuit, I tend to meet them back home in Florida. It is hard to find someone who is as tall as me, though (she is 6ft 2in), so I don’t have to wear flat shoes.’

‘Are you a virgin,’ Venus responds

Recently she was rumored to be dating fellow tennis star Reilly Opelka, and I ask if she is still a virgin and she almost chokes. ‘Let’s just say I don’t want to go there,’ and I see a twinkle in her eye. Come on, Venus, have you done it yet? She squirms like a teenager.

Venus Williams dating Reilly Opelka

Venus Williams rumored to be dating fellow tennis star Reilly Opelka

She denies being lonely, holed up in her little house. I wish her luck as she signs two tennis balls for me in her careful handwriting, and she goes back to her routine of eat, sleep, train, gym, practise. She is a giant, immensely likeable, shy child-woman whose career has been a cocoon as much as a vehicle to untold riches.

I hope she gets a life outside the court. She so deserves it.

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