"The first time you win, nobody picks you. The last time you win, nobody picks you. You’ve just got to pick yourself.” Tennis-playing philosopher Venus Williams uttered those words at Wimbledon last year. Like so many of Venus’ cosmically inspiring pronouncements, it belongs in any collection of great motivational quotes.
Over the last 15 months, those words have not only seemed inspiring, but also prescient. A few days after Venus said them, she reached the semifinals at Wimbledon for the first time since 2009. This year, she went one round further at the Australian Open and at the All England Club. Could she do something similar at the U.S. Open?
If so, it would make Venus’ statement sound even more farsighted. Twenty years ago, as a brash and wiry 17-year-old rookie—a “Yearling,” as she described herself—Venus galloped all the way to her first Grand Slam final, at Flushing Meadows. It was an unlikely run, and Venus would make a lot of fans happy if, as a 37-year-old, she could recapture some of that sport-changing magic.
In 1997, the loudest cheers in Venus’ player box came from her 15-year-old sister, Serena, who wouldn’t make her U.S. Open debut until the following year. In 2017, Venus will again be flying the Williams family flag alone. Serena, who is due to have her baby in September, may not be cheering her sister in person this time, but she’ll be with her in spirit.