Venus Williams reveals why she fears playing exhibition matches

Venus Williams at Wimbledon

Former Wimbledon champion Venus Williams took centre stage for the opening of Wimbledon’s revamped No.1 court on Sunday, but the American admits she broke one of her own rules by taking part in an exhibition match against former world No 1 Kim Clijsters.

Williams broke away from her preparations for the French Open to set foot on the grass courts at the All England Club and she revealed why she rarely accepts invitations to take part in tennis matches away from the main WTA Tour.

“I never really play well in exhibition matches because I’m always quite nervous because I play so badly, but this was a lot of fun,” she said. “It was great to not only be out here for the opening but for a great cause. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“It was surreal being back at Wimbledon outside of the tournament. It made me actually really grateful to be able to play this game and have some reflection over the years. When you’re here for the tournament you don’t think you’re stressed but you are. Today I smiled the whole time during the match. It was a great experience.

“You hear that echo of the ball and you hear the crack when the roof is on. It is like a whip and it’s very impressive to hear that sound. The orchestra… I hope they keep that for the tournament – it’s amazing! It was a very, very special vibe.

“I remember my first time playing here and I played on Court One. I played on Saturday in the tournament instead of Monday as scheduled. That was six days waiting to play so you are definitely going to see a huge difference in getting the matches through.

“It was so nice because I could enjoy the reception from the crowd. During the tournament, you’re going over your last moments of the game plan and it’s so intense but today I just got to smile and enjoy it and this opportunity doesn’t come along often as you get to walk out on court at Wimbledon in front of a crowd and actually smile.”

Williams beat Clijsters in an entertaining encounter, as she admitted her opponent could still compete on the WTA Tour.

“She was hitting the ball so cleanly,” added Williams of mother-of-three Clijsters. “It was great to get out there with Kim and there is no doubt she could still win matches on the tour if she got some practice in.”

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