It’s been three weeks since Venus Williams lost to Coco Gauff in the first round at Wimbledon, and these days she is playing for the Washington Kastles of World Team Tennis.
On Friday, Williams was at St. Joseph’s University to play a WTT match against the Freedoms, and while she didn’t want to talk about Gauff, she did say that, with the U.S. Open set to open just a month from Friday, the WTT competition helps her stay in shape and transition to a different playing surface.
“It’s a great way to transition from grass to hard court,” Williams said of playing the WTT circuit. “That’s a big step to get your feet ready for these events out of the grass. This helps me every year.”
Williams won her women’s singles match over the Freedoms’ Taylor Townsend, 5-2, but Townsend teamed with Raquel Atawo for a 5-2 women’s doubles win over Williams and Nicole Melichar to seal a 20-17 victory over the Kastles at Hagan Arena.
The Freedoms went into Friday’s match with an 8-2 record and in second place behind the defending champion Springfield Lasers. The Kastles were 1-7, having lost to the Freedoms, 24-17, on Thursday night.
On Sunday at 6 p.m., the Freedoms host Springfield, who lost, 23-15, to the host Orlando Storm on Friday.
An hour before she took the court against the Freedoms, Williams appeared on a panel at St. Joseph’s with tennis legend and Freedoms owner Billie Jean King, former Duke basketball player Lindsey Harding, and Valerie Camillo, the president of business operations for the Flyers and Wells Fargo Center, to discuss issues about women and sports.
During the panel, Williams recalled first meeting King in 1988 at a WTT event. Williams said the WTT is “everything” to her.
“I started my World Team Tennis career when I was eight years old going to a kid’s clinic,” she said. “Here I am, fast-forward 30 years later, and I’m playing World Team Tennis and giving kids clinics. It’s come full circle.”
Williams, who played with the Freedoms from 2006 to 2009, said she is welcomed every time she returns to the Philadelphia area. Before Friday’s match, Williams took photos with fans.
“I play here a lot," she said. "The first time, I was maybe 17 years old, and it was a tournament. Now I get to come back and play World Team Tennis.”
A few hours before she took the court on Friday, Williams revealed on social media that she stole a pair of shoes from her sister, Serena. She did it, she said, because Serena posted a video on Instagram that made fun of Venus for having an empty refrigerator.
They would never make fun of her like that in Philadelphia, she said.