Tennis great Williams praises Woods’ impact after second round U.S. Open win

John Craven
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USA's Serena Williams celebrates her win against Estonia's Anett Kontaveit (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Serena Williams has praised the impact of Tiger Woods after the 15-time Major winner convinced the tennis great to give it one more go at the big time at this year’s U.S. Open.

Woods was part of a raucous crowd cheering the 23-time Grand Slam champion to victory over second seed Anett Kontaveit in their second round match at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Williams had confirmed in an essay she wrote with Vogue last month that she was to retire on her own terms, but not before a conversation with Woods persuaded her to have one last shot at a Grand Slam.

“He’s one of the reasons I’m here, one of the main reasons I’m still playing. We talked a lot. He was really trying to get me motivated,” Williams said.

“There’s a few people, but we were like, ‘OK, we can do this together’. It was good, because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was just lost, so many questions. When you can rely on someone like that – I mean, my goodness, he’s Tiger Woods – it was really helpful to get clarity.”

In her blog, Williams detailed how Tiger, no stranger to miraculous sporting comebacks himself, had advised the tennis great to just give it time without committing to any return.

She wrote; “This spring, I had the itch to get back on the court for the first time in seven months. I was talking to Tiger Woods, who’s a friend, and I told him I needed his advice on my tennis career.

“I said, “I don’t know what to do: I think I’m over it, but maybe I’m not over it.” He’s Tiger, and he was adamant that I be a beast the same way he is! He said, “Serena, what if you just gave it two weeks? You don’t have to commit to anything. You just go out on the court every day for two weeks and give it your all and see what happens.”

“I said, “All right, I think I can do that.” And I didn’t do it. But a month later, I gave it a try. And it felt magical to pick up a racket again. And I was good. I was really good. I went back and forth about whether to play Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open after that. As I’ve said, this whole evolution thing has not been easy for me.”

After getting dumped out of the doubles alongside sister Venus, Williams now faces Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic in their third round encounter tonight and although she’s not trying to get ahead of herself, Williams looks to be gaining confidence and motivation, even at 40-years young and with such a glittering CV.

“It’s no rush here,” she said. “I’m loving this crowd. There’s still a little left in me. We’ll see. I’m a pretty good player, this is what I do best. I love a challenge and I’m rising to the challenge.

“I haven’t played many matches, but I’ve been practising really well. The last couple of matches it’s come together. After I lost the second set I thought, ‘I’ve got to give my best effort because this could be it’.

“I’m just looking at it as a bonus. I don’t have anything to lose. I’ve had an X on my back since 1999. I really enjoy just coming out and enjoying it.”

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