September 25, 2022

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WIMBLEDON, England — Yet another impressionistic painting of a day at Wimbledon had floated when a match lingered in the twilight, and this match turned out to be something of a nostalgist’s dreamscape. Some nostalgic people could even have had a drink.

In the second most famous of the two giant stadiums, No. 1 court Kiwi Michael Venus, 34, and his mixed doubles partner, Alicja Rosolska, from Polish tennis heaven, engaged in a three-set brawl with two faces. closes in memory banks around this location.

One would be Jamie Murray, 36, from Scotland, whose mixed doubles title with Jelena Jankovic here in 2007 was as successful as any mixed doubles title – there was a lasting standing ovation – brought a first major title to the two Murray brothers which includes Andy and put Jamie Murray on his way to seven Grand Slam titles in doubles, two in doubles and five in mixed.

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The other would be her 42-year-old teammate, also named Venus.

“I had no intention of playing,” said Venus Williams afterwards. “I saw the grass and got excited.”

Mercy, she looked happy, and not just because of their 6-3, 6-7 (7-3), 6-3 first-round win that sent them into an elated embrace. While her press conferences in recent years could tip towards the excruciating, a weariness having set in during her more than two decades of fame and answers, she reappeared on Friday after a 10-month absence and brought her wink and his mind.

“Are you here to win,” a question was asked, “or just to get past the third round?” – in which Serena Williams and Andy Murray lost in mixed doubles in 2019.

“What kind of question is this?” Venus Williams beamed. “We are here for a walk. Let’s go.”

“Are you here for the experience, or are you going to go all the way?”

“Eh?” said Williams.

“Are you going to write a good article or a semi-decent article? she chirped.

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The partnership seemed to rise out of the ether just as this Wimbledon dragged the tennis balls and got under way. “Venus’ coach texted me asking if I wanted to play,” Murray said. “Last year she asked me, but I hurt my neck. So I was like, I want to do both [with doubles as well]. I can’t say no twice. Were playing. It was very fun tonight. We had a good time. So nice to play on court 1, a bunch of people come out to watch or stay out to watch. Yeah, that was cool. I really, really enjoyed it. Incredible to be on the court with such a champion.

“I always tried to play with him,” Williams said. “He’s playing hard to get.”

She noted the technicality that she failed to win a mixed doubles title here to rank among her five singles plates and six doubles cups. “It’s one of the only ones I haven’t won,” she said, “so I usually prioritize it a bit more here. It was definitely great last minute. Just inspired by Serena [and her return in singles]. . . . I was so happy to have so much help today.

“You played well,” Murray replied. “Like, she hasn’t played for a long time. First game, big pitch, lots of people. It’s not easy.”

It all came 15 years after sharing the climax of a closing weekend at 27 and 21, that weekend in 2007. Williams had fallen to world No. 31 but returned to a fourth title in single at Wimbledon and said: “I don’t take anything for granted anymore. I did it, but not anymore. Murray won with Jankovic and joked about the victory kiss as motivation, whereupon a reporter asked if Murray had a girlfriend and he said, “No,” then asked if Jankovic had a boyfriend and she, more coy than ever, said, “I have a lot.”

Now Williams and Murray are 15 years older and countless other hubbub outside of tennis, and Williams’ feeling here is almost similar to where Martina Navratilova would play mixed doubles over 40, but the grass …

“I was at Roland Garros, it’s a great event, but my heart didn’t beat the same,” Williams said. “It’s not that I could play, but… I had no plans. That’s why I asked him at the last minute. He just had a baby too, so I know that there’s a lot going on. I sure couldn’t have guessed that I’d be here right now, grabbing it at the last minute. I haven’t played in a year, so you don’t know what you’re gonna win Training is so different from a game.

So: “Right at the (end) it was like, ‘Oh my god, wow. Not only did I play a game, I won a game. I’m never that kind of player. ‘always expecting to win. But when I sat there, when I sat there at the end, it was, like, real.

“Yes, I felt something in my heart.”

“Yeah, that was all it was supposed to be,” Murray said. “I’m delighted to have another game on Sunday or Monday, when that’s the case.”

Williams hadn’t played since last August in Chicago, a 6-2, 6-3 loss to Taiwan’s Su-Wei Hsieh shortly after reaching the second round in singles action here last year. His ranking then stands at No. 147. It is after inactivity at No. 570. It doesn’t matter. Randomly call her #1 and call their team an ongoing event.

“I was really busy when I wasn’t on tour,” said Williams, now inundated with plans. “It’s easier to be on tour than off tour. I should just come back so I can get some more sleep. I have a lot of off-tour work. I’m a professional athlete, so that’s who I am. But I’ll be fine without it. Everything will be fine if I’m here. I’ll be fine if it’s not. But I am a professional athlete.