Crash ques­tion leaves Venus in tears

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

LON­DON — Venus Wil­liams wiped away tears dur­ing her Wim­ble­don me­dia con­fer­ence on Mon­day.

The Amer­i­can star shook her head, fid­dled with her hair and sat silently.

The wave of emo­tion came as Wil­liams at­tempted to an­swer a ques­tion about the two-car crash that po­lice say she caused June 9 in Florida, re­sult­ing in the death of a 78-year-old pas­sen­ger in the other ve­hi­cle 13 days later.

Wil­liams’ 7-6 (7), 6-4 vic­tory over Elise Mertens at the All Eng­land Club was the five-time Wim­ble­don cham­pion’s first match any­where since the ac­ci­dent — and the first time she has spo­ken about it pub­licly.

Well, tried to speak about it. She be­gan by say­ing: “There are re­ally no words to de­scribe, like, how dev­as­tat­ing and ...” Wil­liams paused. “Yeah, I’m com­pletely speech­less,” she briefly con­tin­ued.

“It’s just ... I mean, I’m just ...”

Then she sat there in si­lence. Even­tu­ally, the Wim­ble­don of­fi­cial seated next to Wil­liams tem­po­rar­ily halted the me­dia con­fer­ence, al­low­ing the 37-year-old to leave the room for a bit.

She hud­dled nearby with her older sis­ter, Isha, be­fore re­turn­ing. When the pro­ceed­ings re­sumed, the mod­er­a­tor asked that the topic of the crash be avoided, say­ing: “Venus is will­ing to take a cou­ple more ques­tions about other things. Tennis, per­haps.”

The 10th-seeded Wil­liams’ re­turn to ac­tion, and dif­fi­culty in ad­dress­ing the off-court mat­ters with the me­dia — just last week, the po­lice re­port was re­leased, and a day later, the es­tate of the crash vic­tim sued her — were the most note­wor­thy hap­pen­ings on the first day of the grass­court Grand Slam.

There was, though, on-court news, too, of course, start­ing with No 3-ranked Stan Wawrinka, a three-time ma­jor cham­pion and the run­ner-up at the French Open just three weeks ago, be­ing bounced 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 by Daniil Medvedev, a 21-year-old Rus­sian ranked 49th who had never won so much as one Grand Slam match in his ca­reer.

“For sure, I wasn’t feel­ing the way I wanted to feel,” Wawrinka said. “Ap­par­ently, grass is not the best sur­face for my knee.”

Wawrinka has won each of the other ma­jors once, but Wim­ble­don has given him fits over the years. He has yet to get past the quar­ter­fi­nals and this was his sixth exit in the first round.

Another seeded man hob­bled by an in­jury de­parted when No 20 Nick Kyr­gios, a tal­ented if tem­per­a­men­tal Aus­tralian, stopped play­ing be­cause of a hip prob­lem.

He dropped the first two sets against Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France be­fore call­ing it quits.

Two of the four men who have divvied up the past 14 Wim­ble­don tro­phies won eas­ily on Mon­day: Andy Mur­ray and Rafael Nadal.

Mur­ray was asked about what ad­vice he might give Wil­liams.

“I don’t know ex­actly what hap­pened. I just read head­lines, rather than the whole sto­ries about it. But it’s ob­vi­ously hor­rific when any­thing like that hap­pens,” he said.

“I’m sure it must be tough for her to fo­cus on her tennis just now. But I don’t know how you ad­vise some­one on that.

“Un­less you’ve been through it, you don’t know. You don’t know what to do.”

Wil­liams has not been cited or charged, and po­lice say she was not drunk, on drugs or tex­ting, but that she drove her SUV into the path of a car car­ry­ing a mar­ried cou­ple.

Wil­liams, who owns a home near the crash site, told in­ves­ti­ga­tors her light was green when she en­tered the six-lane in­ter­sec­tion but she got stopped mid­point by traf­fic and didn’t see the other car be­fore she crossed their lane.

“I mean, ob­vi­ously, I think it would weigh on any hu­man be­ing, and Venus is no dif­fer­ent,” said Wil­liams’ coach, David Witt.

“Venus is the nicest per­son, and this is just some ran­dom thing that could hap­pen to any­body, any day. But she’s look­ing to fo­cus on the tennis. I’m sure it’s weigh­ing on her but we’re go­ing day by day and get­ting good prac­tice in.

“Once she en­ters the court, I think her mind’s on the match and tennis and win­ning here at Wim­ble­don.”

Asked how dif­fi­cult the re­cent weeks have been, Wil­liams replied: “Tennis is still the love of my life. You know, it gives me joy.”

She is a for­mer No 1 and the owner of seven ma­jor sin­gles ti­tles, along with 14 Grand Slam dou­bles ti­tles, all won with her younger sis­ter, Ser­ena.

“I have no idea what to­mor­row will bring. That’s all I can say about it,” Venus said. “That’s what I’ve learned.”

Bet­ter late than never

Come­back queen

Re­tir­ing types

Name that train

No tie break

HAN YAN / XIN­HUA

TOBY MELVILLE / REUTERS

Venus Wil­liams

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