(August 25, 2014) FLUSHING MEADOWS – On what would have been Althea Gibson’s 87th birthday, 34-year-old Venus Williams overcame 43-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 to win her first round match in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday.
Williams was asked about how Gibson, who was the first black tennis player to win a major, has inspired her.
“What she accomplished is something no one else did, to be not only the best player in the world during that time where she had no support and in a time when it was hard to feel good about yourself because who you were was something that was considered inferior, Williams commented. “So that was very difficult. I can’t imagine how she felt. She did it with class and she did it with grace. I’m very fortunate not to have had to play under those circumstances. I have had an opportunity to play well and be myself, and because of her, I’m really proud of who I am. Really, what she has done, you know, goes beyond words.”
In turn, the 19th seed Williams was asked about the role she and her sister Serena have played in terms of diversity during her career.
“Serena and I played in a different time,” Venus said. “I think we played in a different time where you’re able to have opportunities. And people love to be on the side of a winner, so, you know, the things that everyone did, women’s rights, civil rights, all of those things are a different time, thank God. I’m not saying it’s a perfect time, but it is a different time. So, yes, I think that Serena and I influenced lots of young people, lots of African-Americans, hopefully all kinds of people all around the world, to live a better life through sports or even if they never played.”
In addition to facing a tough opponent on Monday, Williams has to fight off a bee. The two-time US Open champion led 3-0 in the deciding set when a bee buzzed around the court around both players.
“So once it was my turn, then I think I would have been remiss to swat it myself. Kind of came up with a strategy to hopefully, you know, follow her example in that. Just let the fly land on the racquet and in the towel. I guess he’s on his way now.”
The insect was captured and taken off court by ball persons and an additional helper.
Williams’ next opponent will be Timea Bacsinszky in the second round.