On Wednesday night, the chatter from the private boxes was deafening at times. But through the din, you could hear Williamsâs father and longtime coach, Richard, at courtside, cheering her on.
âHe really wanted it for me, so itâs a happy moment when you come off the court,â Williams said. âEven if I lose, heâs still very happy, but to see the joy and the pride and the excitement â I could win the match just for that.â
Richard Williams, 75, reportedly had a stroke last summer, shortly before Williamsâs sister Serena won Wimbledon. He had not seen either of them play in person for about a year, since he accompanied Venus to the Volvo Open in Charleston, S.C., in early April 2016.
Seventeen years ago, Venus was the defending champion at this tournament when she withdrew with tendinitis in both wrists two days before it began. Richard Williams said Venus, then 19, was seriously considering retirement.
âOn a scale of 10, Iâd say sheâs a seven,â he told The Associated Press. âWhy wait until youâre 27 to retire? No one gives a damn about you when you get that old. People are waiting for the next 14-year-old girl to bring excitement.â
Perhaps a gradual appreciation of the legacy they are building changed his tune. And as the game has evolved, there are no longer any 14-year-olds bursting onto the scene.
âI feel that his greatest accomplishment was for Serena and I to be whole people and to not be statistics,â Venus said. âHe just wanted us to not see tennis as the whole thing in our life. At this point, I think he never wants us to retire, so itâs a joy for him to see us out here.â
Kerber is the sixth No. 1 player Williams has beaten in her career. Eight of those 15 victories came against Martina Hingis, also 36 and still a force in doubles. She…