|ESPN.com: Videogames||[Print without images]|
Venus Williams' serve clocks in at over 120 mph. So when I sat down with her recently at EA Sports to talk "Grand Slam Tennis," the first thing I wanted to know is if she has ever driven her car that fast, just to know what it's like to be the ball.
"I don't want to end up in jail, so I decided against trying that," she laughed. "But once I get to Germany and get on the Autobahn, it could happen."
Williams participated in a variety of events for EA, teaching media how to serve, attempting to dunk with Dwight Howard out on the basketball court, and even trying her first hockey slapshot with Bruins tough guy Milan Lucic. Unfortunately, no "Need for Speed" events were involved.
But it was Williams who stole the show once she plugged in "Grand Slam Tennis" for the Wii and tried her virtual serve-and-volley in a single-player game against cyber-legend Chris Evert. Within minutes, you couldn't even walk through the hall as everyone in attendance gathered around to watch her swing the Wiimote.
Williams looked smooth, smashing the ball like the former Wimbledon champion she is, even if she struggled a bit on her Wii-serve.
"It's funny to see myself as a video game character," Williams said, smiling toward the TV as she checked out her image. "And I love how they finally have Wimbledon in a game.
"I still remember my first time playing at Wimbledon for real," she told me after the game. "I was so nervous. I wanted to win but didn't know how. It was a good learning experience, that's for sure, and helped me step forward and get some wins."
And those wins include 18 Grand Slam titles and over $20 million in winnings.
"Hopefully when people watch me, they enjoy what they see and are entertained. Playing in these finals matches is just where I want to be."
But when she makes the finals, does she prefer to play against her sister, Serena, or would she rather play somebody else?
|Williams says it's funny to see herself as a video game character.|
"I don't care who I play as long as I make the finals. Every tournament you play in, you have to look at it as a privilege, not a given to even be playing. You have to be ready, be prepared, and be healthy if you want a chance to win, then you just go for it."
As Venus paused, she glanced up at the screen still showing replays of Evert's "Grand Slam" Wii domination, and I asked her which tennis legends she admired growing up.
"Monica Seles," Venus said. "She was my favorite. When you're a younger player, it's great to have a favorite to watch. You can learn a lot by watching other athletes."
And Venus has advice for aspiring young tennis players who watch her the way she used to watch Seles.
"Always stay positive. Whether you win or lose, always stay positive. That helps go a long way. It also helps if you're 6-1," she laughed. "It's important you stay determined and just keep practicing so you find your game. Once you find the style you're good at, you never know what could happen."
As for how her style translates to the video game?
"I'm very aggressive on the court and always play with that aggressive attitude. When I tried to play the video game, I was just as aggressive, but I'm just not that good at the game yet. I think I need some more practice. I actually used to play games growing up. Not the old Atari, but I used to play a lot of Mario on the Nintendo. I think everyone did.
"Hopefully I can get some more time playing this game later, I was losing bad. I just need to get some wins in," she laughed. "That's the great thing about this game -- if you mess up and lose, you just turn the game off, but when you turn it back on, you can still go back in and win Wimbledon that very next moment. In real life, after you lose a big match, it can feel like forever until you get to play again."