LONDON — Venus Williams arrived at Wimbledon last week with no intention of participating. But then she changed her mind.
“I wasn’t going to play,” Williams said Friday. “I saw the grass and I got excited.”
Her coach reached out to Jamie Murray, a five-time mixed doubles and two-time doubles champion, to see if he would play with Williams, and he agreed. On Friday night, in front of a packed crowd at No. 1 Court, the new pair defeated Alicja Rosolska and Michael Venus 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-2 in a first round match that lasted 2 hours and 18 minutes.
It was Williams’ first game since August 2021. Both Venus and sister Serena had fueled retirement speculation this season due to their lack of play, but then Serena announced her return to competition earlier this month; she played in doubles at Eastbourne and lost in her opening round of Wimbledon in singles to Harmony Tan on Tuesday.
Venus originally insisted she wouldn’t join Serena as a competitor in a post on her Instagram story shortly after Serena’s reveal, but she was then spotted on the All England Club practice courts. She and Murray requested and received a late wildcard, and on Wednesday they were announced in the mixed doubles draw.
“It was absolutely super last minute,” Venus Williams said Friday. “Just inspired by Serena.”
Murray said Williams had asked him to play at Wimbledon last year but was unable to play both doubles and mixed doubles due to an injury.
“I can’t say no twice,” he said of the opportunity.
Williams said she wasn’t sure how she would fare after such a long absence from the field, and she credited Murray for providing ‘so much help today’.
Both said they enjoyed the game and played together.
“It was fun,” said Murray. “For me that was what I wanted to get out of it. It was a great experience, playing with Venus Williams. When will I get the chance to do that?”
While this is their first time playing together, it won’t be Williams and Murray’s first collaboration at Wimbledon. Their younger siblings, Serena and Andy, joined forces at the All England Club in 2019, reaching the third round.
Venus Williams and Murray then play against Alicia Barnett and Jonny O’Mara, probably on Sunday.