Never count out this Williams sister 

The career began on an autumn evening 17 years ago in a tournament at the old Oakland Arena. Venus Williams doesn’t even want to think about it ending, although for a while Wednesday others did consider the possibility.

This is what happens in women’s tennis when you’re older than 30, when you’ve had a series of injuries and when, as Wednesday in a second-round match at Wimbledon, you’re losing big in the first set.

Venus would win, of course, which is what champions do, no matter what their age, and she’s 31. And nine years younger than the marvelous Kimiko Date-Krumm, who at 40, and after retiring and unretiring, still proves a baffling opponent.

To Williams, who needed 2 hours, 56 minutes for a 6-7 (6), 6-3, 8-6 victory, it isn’t the years that count, but how they are spent. “In terms of feeling age,” she said, “I definitely feel the experience of it all.”

The adage, really the joke, about growing older in sports is by the time you learn all there is to know and do, you’re not able to do it any longer. In this era, when Jason Kidd can perform beautifully — and help win an NBA championship — at 38, and Mariano Rivera continues to save games at 40, that is no longer relevant.

Venus, roughly 16 months older than sister Serena, who will be 30 in September, figured it out when she was young, winning the first of her five Wimbledon singles at age 20 in 2000. She missed months recently because of an abdominal injury, but do not ask her about quitting.

“I’m not sure what lies in the future for me,” was her indirect response to how long she’ll play. “I tend to base all my goals around the Olympics nowadays. I hope to have a few more Olympics left in me. But obviously [Date-Krumm] is a huge role model.”

Date — pronounced DAH-tay — is from Tokyo. She quit in 1996 and married German race car driver Michael Krumm. She came back in 2009. “It takes a lot to beat her, as you saw,” said Venus Williams. “She hits hard and runs fast.”

Sounds like Muhammad Ali in his prime.

Venus’ prime may have passed, but the next Olympics is in 2012 in London, some 20 miles from the All England Club, Wimbledon’s home. Then there’s 2016 in Rio. She’ll be 36, but who’s counting?

What Wimbledon counted on when it erected its $140 million roof, completed in 2009, were days like Wednesday.

For the first time in two years there was heavy rain, and play was delayed for several hours on every grass playing surface except Centre Court, where the roof was closed, and Venus, Date-Krumm and 14,000 spectators were under cover.

“It was a lot warmer,” said Venus about conditions, “and definitely you can hear some echoes. So when I was frustrated, you could definitely hear those screams echoing around the arena.”

There were a great many early on as Williams fell behind Date-Krumm, 5-1. Later she grew quieter and her game grew more efficient.

“I felt I was able to start tagging my serve, and that was huge for me.”

We keep writing Venus Williams off, and all she does is keep rolling on.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and Email him at

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Art Spander

Art Spander

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and Email him at
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