She also reveals how to beat jet lag and where to get a foot massage at 2 a.m.
To celebrate next week’s start of the U.S. Open, the Lotte New York Palace Hotel hosted its annual Palace Invitational in the courtyard. The spirited badminton event featured star tennis players Rafael Nadal, Venus Williams, Genie Bouchard, and Nick Kyrgios. (You can watch the Williams vs. Nadal match in the video below.)
T+L sat down with all-time tennis great Venus Williams just before her set against 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, to chat about competing, her travel habits, and where to get a foot massage at 2 a.m.
Travel + Leisure: How do you battle jet lag?
Venus Williams: “I usually try to book a flight that gets in at a time when I can go straight to sleep upon arrival. But I have all these different strategies. If I don’t sleep the night before then I can sleep on the plane so I can be awake when I get there. It’s all about when you go to sleep.”
Do you use an app to manage your sleep schedule?
“I didn’t even know they have apps for that. Now I’ll have to update my whole strategy.”
What item do you take with you every time you travel?
“I travel with my dog Harold, a 10-year old Havenese. My dog goes a lot of places. He was an impulse buy and we’ve been best friends ever since.”
When you’re checking into a hotel room, what’s the first thing you do?
“I usually just take a nap, though sometimes I’ll go straight to practice. For me, it’s all geared toward how I’m preparing for the next tournament. Usually I don’t travel too much unless it’s for work.”
When you’re traveling for work, what’s the one place you love going back to every year?
I love Hong Kong and I love Rome. I’m always so happy to go back to those two cities. Hong Kong is just getting better and better. I first went there 20 years ago. I love the city, I love the mixture of people, I love how East meets West, and how every step that you take, even though it’s a huge city like New York, you’re always right near the water. And I love that you can be out all night and get yourself a foot massage at 2 a.m.”
Have you been to Macau?
“No. I’m not a gambler so I’ve never been.”
Then you’re not missing too much.
“I would be missing more if I was gambling!”
Is there a destination that’s really high on your bucket list?
“I’ve always wanted to go to Prague. And I’ve always wanted to see a whale shark.”
You can’t find whale sharks in Prague, unfortunately.
“When I was in Thailand, I wanted to see one, but it didn’t work out. I was supposed to be on vacation and then I ended up getting invited to play in Japan because some other player pulled out and I had to cancel the trip. Fast forward 10 years later and I haven’t made it back. Some day though.”
What’s greater: the pressure to stay on top, or the pressure to find or attempt a new challenge?
“The longer you play, the harder it is to change. I think the most pressure is the expectation that you put on yourself.”
How do you adjust to that?
“I don’t know if it’s possible. You just try. You learn from it and then you do it again. It’s always there.”
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s U.S. Open?
“Winning my matches. It’s all I want. Nothing more. Nothing less. And I want it all. Is that too much? I think not.”
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Definitely from Serena, when she says ‘if you have to show up, why not compete?’ It makes sense.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.