Saturday, March 10, 2018 - Venus Williams plays Sorana Cirstea in the 2nd Round of the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Michael Cummo/BNP Paribas Open)
Compton, Calif., where she first honed her craft, is just a two-hour drive due west of Indian Wells. But, in many ways, the Venus Williams of 2019 couldn’t be further from those cracked courts where her father, Richard, once fed her flat-air tennis balls from a shopping cart.
Venus and her younger sister, Serena, have ventured far beyond anything their parents — Richard and Oracene — ever could have envisioned when they saw Virginia Ruzici pocket $40,000 on their TV screen all those years ago.
Now 38, Williams is a seven-time Grand Slam champion, with four Olympic gold medals and more than $41 million in prize money. Speaking of prize money, she led the fight for an equal payday at the All England Club. She owns her own fashion line: EleVen. She’s overcome a Sjogrens Syndrome diagnosis. And a quarter-century into her professional tennis career, she’s still wielding a racquet.
Though she’s fallen to No. 36 in the world, Williams is still a force on the WTA Tour. The American comes to the BNP Paribas Open having played just six matches all year. She’ll open against another former Top-10 veteran. Germany’s Andrea Petkovic, 31.
It should be a competitive matchup. They’re an even 2-2 in career head-to-heads, although their last encounter was five years ago. Petko, one of the WTA’s sharpest and well-liked performers, is looking to reestablish her game after having fallen to No. 68.
Williams and Petkovic are second on court in Stadium 1 today.