The US Open just wrapped up in September, but in the tennis world, there’s really no such thing as an offseason. To that end, the first Grand Slam of the season, the Australian Open, kicks off Monday, Jan. 16, and one of our favorites will be competing down under.
According to ESPN, Venus WIlliams has received a wild card into the major tournament. This will be the seven-time Grand Slam champion’s 22nd Australian Open appearance. She’s been to the finals twice, losing to her sister, Serena Williams, both times. The last time they met was in 2017, when Serena won while two months pregnant with her daughter.
“I’ve been competing in the country for over 20 years now and the Australian community has always supported me wholeheartedly,’’ Williams said in a statement. “It will be an honor to play for the fans again and I’m looking forward to making more memories at the tournament this year.”
Venus is receiving this wild card based on her status as a previous Grand Slam champion, a common practice at all major tournaments. In addition to championship credentials, wild cards are also given to local up-and-coming players. In this case, that means young Australian competitors getting a chance to play in their first major tournament.
Despite the fact that this is a normal practice in the tennis world, some fans are upset that Venus, who hasn’t played well for the last few years, is getting a wild card. Though she’s mainly focused on doubles lately, the few times she has competed in singles, she’s been defeated in the first round. This was the outcome in her last singles match at the US Open.
Here’s the thing: tournament organizers aren’t necessarily concerned with growing the future of Australian tennis. They have an event to run and adding someone like Venus to the draw increases their chances of a big box office. And just so it’s clear, Venus Williams has 100 percent earned the right to decide when she wants to retire. That decision is up to her and no one else.