September 25, 2022

By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, July 1, 2022

Venus Williams brought passion, a goal and 11 months of inactivity to his return to Wimbledon.

Jamie Murray came with a sore neck and a commitment to the cause.

After: Djokovic heads into week two of Wimbledon

Together the pair shook off the common rust and rocked the front court as they beat Alicja Rosolska and Michael Venus 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-3 in the first round of Wimbledon mixed doubles.

It was Williams’ 24th appearance at Wimbledon and her first match at Tour level since playing in Chicago last August when she fell to former Wimbledon doubles champion Hsieh Su-Wei.

The thrill of feeling the Wimbledon grass beneath her feet sent the 42-year-old Venus soaring.

“I haven’t played in a year so you don’t know what you’re going to get. Practice is so different from a game,” Williams said. “It’s not easy physically or mentally or anything. 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 like that kind of player. I always expect to win. But when I sat there we wanted to win, but when I sat there at the end it felt like real. Yeah, I felt something in my heart.”

Fans at Ground No. 1 did the same.

Murray, who previously won the Wimbledon mixed doubles crowns with former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic in 2007 and Martina Hingis a decade later, received a text message from the Williams coach with the mixed Wimbledon invitation .

Although he suffered from a stiff neck and had no intention of playing mixed, Murray said partnering with Venus was a no-brainer.

“Last year she asked me, but I hurt my neck. So I was like, I want to do both. I can’t say no twice.

“We are playing. It was great fun tonight. We had a great time. So nice to play on court 1, lots of people came to watch or stayed outside to watch. Yeah, that was cool. I really, really appreciated. Amazing to be on the court with such a champion.”

Afterwards, the Grand Slam champions said their first partnership came together at the last minute, but really lasted for years.

They showed a natural rapport at net and in their post-match presser.

“I’ve been trying to play with him forever. He plays hard to get,” Venus said, prompting Murray to respond. “She only asked me at Wimbledon where there were five sets for the doubles.”

A quick reminder for dedicated tennis fans: 22 years ago, Venus and her sister Serena won the first of their five Wimbledon championships together.

Tonight, Venus and Jamie Murray were asked if they were “in it to win.”

“What kind of question is that,” Williams said. “We’re here for a walk. Come on.”

Williams and Murray will try to keep the roll going in the second round against British wildcards Alicia Barnett and Jonny O’Mara.

Former world No. 1 Venus sat in the support box during her sister Serena’s epic first-round loss to Harmony Tan and credited Serena tonight with inspiring her comeback.

The father of the two sisters, Richard Williams, dubbed the “ghetto Cinderellas” during their rise from the public courts of Compton, Calif., to Center Court at Wimbledon returned to SW19.

Asked about the reaction to the movie “King Richard,” Williams said she was thrilled it motivated so many viewers to chase their dreams.

“The movie was, for us, so resonant with how it touched so many people, how it motivated them to be closer to their family or to live their dream,” Venus said. “I think it went beyond what we could have imagined. Then, like, the Oscars, beyond my dreams.

“We definitely had our hands full when we weren’t on tour. We have so many other projects we’re working on too, which is beyond exciting. It’s awesome.”

And the show continues at Wimbledon.

photo credit: Getty