As Venus Williams prepares to join the Washington Kastles this season, NBC’s Dan Hellie spoke with the tennis champ about her new book and life after 30.
Your new book, “Come to Win,” shows the principles of competitive athletics translate into business success through thoughts collected from almost 50 prominent figures. Who had the most interesting or suprising story?
I actually got pretty nervous doing the interviews. The people we were interviewing are so bright and successful that I wanted to make sure I did my homework and communicate that I am taking this project seriously. When I am on the other side of an interview, which I normally am, I can tell when someone is not prepared or has not done their homework. I guess the best sign is when you’re initially offered a limited window of time but the subject offers to spend more time chatting and answering questions. There were so many interesting interviews that it would be hard to pick one. I said this in my preface but something that was interesting to me is how so many of the contributors expressed the importance of learning from losing. I learn from my mistakes on the tennis court which I guess is similar but losing is something that stings every time and is difficult to imagine embracing.
Now that you’re 30 is it easier or harder to think about life after tennis?
My parents have always made sure that Serena and I had well-rounded lives and explored interests beyond tennis. I haven’t gotten to a point where I am planning my future after tennis, but I have always had a sense of comfort that I will have interesting options after my tennis career is over.
World Team Tennis with your sister this summer should be pretty cool. What is it about the “team” format that makes you want to play as opposed to going on vacation or staying home in Palm Beach Gardens?
Any time I am able to team up with Serena, it is something that I enjoy. Unfortunately for us, we won’t compete together on the same night in D.C., but fans will have an opportunity to see us on different nights throughout the season. World Team Tennis is a great experience and a lot of fun. It has been a good opportunity for me to get to know some of the male and female players on tour that I might not have gotten to know during the more stressful environment of tournaments. Everyone is relaxed and we have a lot of fun.
You and your sister have defined your generation of women’s tennis and played each other 23 times. Do you still dread playing each other (especially in a Grand Slam final) or have you gotten used to it?
Playing each other is not easy because we know each other’s games so well. We practice together, share game plans for other opponents and have competed against each other so many times. When we are playing in a Grand Slam final the difficult irony is that we both want to win desperately, but after the match is over there is some comfort in knowing that the Williams name will go on the trophy.