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Venus Williams has a long list of accomplishments — on top of her nearly three-decade-long tennis career, she holds two degrees that she's earned on the side and has launched three companies along the way. But at 41, the athlete is still facing pressure to settle down in a more traditional way, with a significant other and children of her own — something that she's in no rush to do.
"I have a lot of friends who don’t believe me when I say that I like my life and I don’t want to change it for any reason. I’m not desperate and they don’t believe me," she tells Cosmopolitan for the magazine's October cover. "They say things like, 'You’re going to miss your window.' I’m like, 'Please, relax. You might feel this way, but I don’t. I promise you I don’t.'"
The elder of the superstar tennis duo that is Venus and Serena Williams, Venus has been in the spotlight since she started her professional career at just 14 years old. Throughout that time, she's faced challenges when it comes to sticking to her conviction and paving her own path.
"I didn’t see myself as different," Venus says of her debut in the public arena, although those around her warned that as a Black female player in a traditionally white sport, she certainly was. "I saw myself as a great player."
Now, she reflects on all that she's learned throughout that journey.
"As you grow up and mature, you realize you don’t have to be in any situation you find disrespectful. You can let people know what you find disrespectful," she says. "It doesn’t have to be yelling or screaming. I’m not a combative person. I’m never going to let any situation change that, because I want to look back and know that I stayed true to who I am. So come. Come for me if you want to, but you won’t come again."
This has come through in a few of Venus's post-match interviews. Most notably, one at the 2021 French Open where she shared her approach to media after Naomi Osaka withdrew as a result of turning down press obligations. "I know every single person asking me a question can’t play as well as I can and never will," Venus said. "No matter what you say or what you write, you’ll never light a candle to me."
With years of experience under her belt, however, Venus praises Osaka for so bravely using her platform to speak out about important issues.
"I admire everyone who stands up for what is right, which isn’t easy," she tells Cosmopolitan. "It takes strength, courage, and vulnerability. I love to see this next generation of players be willing and open to do that regardless of the cost to them."
And while people remain curious about Venus's love life, as she herself jokes that she is "undatable," the athlete can credit tennis for her independence. "We’re like gladiators out there, literally," she says. "You go out there with your lance and it’s just you."