Venus Williams is a tennis powerhouse.
Currently the 11th best women’s player in the world, throughout her career the 37-year-old has won 49 WTA singles titles and 22 doubles, seven grand slams, and $US36.5 million (£28.1 million) in prize money throughout her career.
She has also been world number one on three occasions.
I spoke to Williams on the phone on Tuesday night, while she was on her way to the airport to catch a flight to the UK, where she will make her 20th appearance on the courts at Wimbledon on Monday. She has won the coveted title at the All England Lawn Tennis Club five times.
So with so many wins under her belt, I asked her — What’s the proudest moment of your career?
“You’ll have to be specific, there are so many,” she joked.
So, I asked again: What’s the proudest moment in your tennis career over the past five years?
“Qualifying for the 2012 Olympics,” she said. Despite seven Grand Slam wins, she said the Olympics meant something to her on a personal level.
In 2011, she was diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that dries out the mouth and eyes, and can also sap strength and cause joint and muscle pain, coughing, and limb numbness.
And its an illness she still deals with. When we spoke, the last book she had read was The Autoimmune Solution by Amy Myers.
On the 2012 Olympics, she said: “I had no time to do it, I was recovering from an illness. But it was an amazing experience to still play for the US when things were looking bleak. It was one of the highlights on my entire career.”
With so much accomplished — despite a number of hardships, including the shocking murder of her half sister Yetunde Price in 2003 — I asked her if there’s anything she wishes she could tell her younger self.
“Trust your intuition because it will really guide you,” she said. “Trust it, act on it. Your gut as well.”
But Williams’ career highlights not only include her success on the tennis court. She’s also an entrepreneur.
After attending design school, in 2012 she launched her line of fitness apparel, EleVen, with a mission to “motivate and empower women to feel confident, strong and express their individuality.”
“It came about through self discovery,” Williams told me. “I started playing tennis when I was very young so I didn’t have to think much about what I was going to do because it was decided for me.” Instead, she started to think about the things she loved to do on the side. “I loved design, I loved art.”
“A lot of it really mirrors my experience in life, the lessons you learn from using your body, competing with yourself,” she said. “It’s about you personally, pushing your limits but never peaking. There’s always room for improvement.”
She added: “It’s about defining yourself, going further, confidence — people who are building those sort of life attributes.”
Earlier this month, the company launched a new collection, worn by Venus in the image below.
Williams said she’ll be wearing clothes from the collection when she competes at Wimbledon next week.
“My favourite right now is the new Seamless collection which we just launched — it’s so soft, it’s amazing,” she said, joking: “I only just got my piece. I don’t get samples.”
She added: “Wimbledon is all white so I’ll be wearing our skirt which has been a part of the line since 2012.”
And as far as whether she thinks that gut instinct can lead to another Wimbledon win?
“That’s always the plan, you always just have to work to achieve that,” she told me. “That’s what I’ll go for, I’ll do my best.”
Whether or not she takes the title — or even reaches the final, or semi-final — at the AELTC next week, it seems like she isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
When I asked her when she plans to leave the world of professional tennis — and what she’ll do when the time inevitably comes — she said: “I don’t think I have to make a choice, that’s the beauty of it. It’s exciting to be strong, fast, powerful and great at something, so we’ll see what happens.”
“I’m already doing what I love in every arena,” she added. “I feel like I’m all set, I don’t have to worry about what’s next.”