by JAMES HENRY
CINCINNATI – Venus Williams is winning. And it sure feels good.
“I didn’t realize I was going to be that excited when I won,” she said after defeating current U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur to advance from the quarterfinals at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
“I’d like to think that this is only the beginning for me of more semifinals. Of course, I’m going to stay focused and try to make it to a final match, as well.
“So, for me, I’d like to take it a lot further. I haven’t played a lot since 2010, so this is awesome for me already.”
Williams, who won the U.S. Open in 2000 and 2001, withdrew from the second round of last year’s event, announcing she had been diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome, a disorder that causes fatigue and joint pain.
Now, the seven-time Grand Slam singles champion is back to her winning ways.
Williams said it’s flattering that she once again is being mentioned as a U.S. Open title contender. But, she stressed, that event and, especially, the trophy are a long way away.
“It takes a lot more than talking to win a tournament. That’s one thing that I do know. You have to walk the walk, hit the shot and execute,” she said.
“No matter what people say – obviously, it’s nice to have positive things said about me – but I need to focus on every point when I get to the Open, as well.”
Positivity, she explained, will be a key to her future success.
“More than anything, my whole goal on the court is to stay positive, and no matter what shot, even if I’m a little disappointed after the shot, I just try to regroup and stay positive,” she said.
“That’s the name to winning matches, because you can’t be down on yourself and your opponent trying to take you down, too. It’s just too much.”
Williams thanked tennis fans for their support, citing Cincinnati as one of the best places to play in the U.S.
“It feels great. It’s awesome they’re behind me,” she said. “When you hit the big shots, they’re there and everybody is pumping you up. It’s a great feeling.”
Many fans have noticed her slimmer figure.
“I don’t really eat as much candy as I used to eat, so that, you know, took a little weight off of me,” she said. “Strangely enough, one of the symptoms of Sjögren’s is loss of appetite, so I’m not as hungry as I used to be. I eat to live now.”
That doesn’t mean Williams – a self-professed “chea-gan,” a cheating vegan – is overly strict with her diet. She reluctantly admitted her love for milkshakes, in particular.
“I really still love eggs, you know, to be honest. Like if I’m making a cornbread, I’m probably going to throw some eggs in there. I can’t help it. My hand slips, and it gets in there,” she laughed.
“So, you know, little things like that. Or like you want some ice cream. You just never know what you might find as you’re living life. I’m working on it. It’s a daily process.”
After the recent Summer Olympic Games in London, where she and her sister, Serena, won their third gold medal for doubles, she treated herself to McDonald’s.
“I didn’t have any chicken nuggets, but every time after the Olympics, like I go to the Village and I have to stop at McDonald’s,” she said. “I enjoy the mango smoothie, amongst other things, fries and stuff like that. It’s great.”
Williams is scheduled to play Li Na not before 7 p.m. Saturday. The other semifinal, between Petra Kvitová and Angelique Kerber, follows.
James Henry is a contributing writer for OnTheGoTennis and is currently in Cincinnati covering the tournament. To follow him on Twitter click here.
Photos by James Henry