Venus Williams enjoyed a triumphant return to competition, pairing with Jamie Murray to defeat Alicja Rosolska and Michael Venus 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-3 in the first round of mixed doubles at Wimbledon. Williams and Murray will face British wildcards Alicia Barnett and Jonny O'Mara in the second round.
Wimbledon is Williams' first tournament of the 2022 season. The seven-time major champion had not competed in any discipline since playing singles at the Chicago Open last August. Williams admitted the pairing came at the 11th hour. She came to England with no plans to play but was inspired by Serena's comeback in Eastbourne and Wimbledon.
"I've been trying to play with him forever," Williams said. "He plays hard to get.
"I haven't played in a year so you don't know what you're going to get. Practice is so much different from a match. It's not easy physically or mentally or anything."
Both Williams and Murray are former doubles No.1, with Williams earning that top spot 12 years ago. Pairing for the first time, the wildcards found their chemistry early. Williams and Murray swept aside the five break points they faced in the opening set, while converting the one break point they earned. Williams saved two break points on her serve to hold at 2-1 and the American-British duo broke in the next game for a 3-1 lead. One break is all that was needed, as Murray would eventually close out the set with three unreturnable serves after 39 minutes.
After an early exchange of breaks, the second set stayed with the server. Williams and Murray earned a break point with Rosolska serving at 5-5, but a perfect volley from Venus wiped it away and the Pole went on to hold. In the tiebreak, Williams and Murray earned the first mini-break at 3-2 but Rosolska and Venus ran through the next five points to force a final set.
After a pause in the action to close the roof over No.1 Court, Williams and Murray came out firing. They broke Rosolska's serve for a 3-1 lead. Rosolska and Venus earned a good chance to regain the break with Williams serving at 4-2, 0-30. But two forehand misses from Rosolska and Venus gave Williams a reprieve and she held to 5-2. Murray would close out the match two games later.
"I think we did a really good job," Murray said. "It was fun. For me, that was what I wanted to get out of it. It was a great experience, playing with Venus Williams. When am I going to get the chance to do that?"
Williams' doubles bona fides are extensive. She has won 22 doubles titles in her career, including 14 major doubles titles, all with her sister Serena Williams. In mixed doubles, she is an Olympic silver medalist and two-time Slam champion, having won both titles in 1998. Last year at Wimbledon, she paired with Nick Kyrgios in mixed doubles and won a round before the Australian withdrew.
Checking in with Venus: "I was very busy when I wasn't on tour. I think it's easier to be on tour than off tour. I think I should just come on back so I can sleep a little more. I have a lot of work off tour.
"I'm a professional athlete, so that's who I am. But I'll be all right without. I'll be all right if I'm here, I'll be all right if I'm not. But I'm a professional athlete."