MIDDLETON — You think newly crowned Wimbledon queen Venus Williams isn't resilient?
She yawned before a mini press conference at the Sheraton Ferncroft in Danvers before appearing with the Philadelphia Freedoms against the Boston Lobsters in a World Team Tennis match last night. There was a good reason for the yawn.
The slender, always smiling 28-year-old Williams called it "a nice, happy tired." It's almost been nonstop for the five-time singles champ of the Big W.
There was the celebrated singles victory Saturday over her sister Serena, their doubles triumph some 90 minutes later, the Champions Ball Sunday in London, and playing for the Freedoms in Wilmington, Del., Tuesday night and Philadelphia Wednesday night. Williams had a 6:45 a.m. flight for Boston yesterday en route to the North Shore.
She absolutely connected with one and all at the Ferncroft Country Club's Center Court, though, with so many obligations to various sponsors, she skipped a pre-match hitting practice. Instead, she spent a hectic hour signing autographs and taking group photos. The smile never left her face, and, according to local fans, she really made a hit.
Middleton police Chief James DiGianvittorio and one of his officers, Michael LeColst, had the responsibility of escorting Williams around to the jam-packed tents for the photo shoots. The chief said he was busier than he thought he'd be.
"They were screaming her name," he said. "Venus showed a lot of compassion, particularly when she dealt with Boys & Girls Club kids. The small ones, especially. She's a class act."
A retired attorney living in Peabody, Pat McLaughlin, said it was surreal to have the Wimbledon titlist right here on the North Shore.
McLaughlin, who saw Wimbledon live in 1972, said it was "phenomenal" that Williams, who was on a world stage at the All-England Club, was now a volley away from her.
"This is huge for the North Shore," she said. "I go back to the days when the likes of Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals, Virginia Wade, Maria Bueno, Carol Graebner and all the others played at Essex County Club. That was the final year before open tennis."
"This (1,500-capacity) site was a sellout a month ago," WTT spokesman Rosie Crews said.
"There was such a demand that I believe a scalper could have done well," she said with a laugh. "I mean it. If the stadium had double the capacity, it would have sold out. That's the impact Venus makes."
Lobsters owner Bahar Uttam agreed that ticket scalpers could have made a mint.
"Rosie is probably right," he said. What's more, waiting in the wings to play for the Lobsters at Ferncroft next week is the legendary Martina Navratilova, who will crank it up July 16 and 19. Uttam said there was a waiting list for Venus' visit and that Navratilova's two nights are already 75 percent sold.
Uttam said he's pleased with the North Shore's acceptance of the Lobsters, who used to play at Harvard University.
Among last night's crowd were Peter and Peggy Cook of Beverly, who saw their first pro tennis match, lured by Williams.
"We got our tickets online May 9," Peter said. "We wanted to see Venus. That was our motivation. We cheered hard for her on TV Saturday. The tickets were a bit pricey (listing for $30 to $60), but this is an event."
The enthusiasm wasn't restricted to the stands, however: It was a personal thrill for Danvers High tennis sensation Anna Dokina to serve as a ball kid.
"Venus and Serena are my favorites. I can't believe I'll be on the same court as Venus," she said. "I'm definitely in their fan club. I had trouble sleeping that night when (Lobsters staffer) Mike Mercier gave me a spot."
Nancy Murphy came up from Calabash, N.C., to see Venus and joined old friends Carol Jackson (a Beverly native who drove down from Harrison, Maine) and Linda Carnevale of Danvers. Nancy's daughter was into tennis, a freshman at The Governor's Academy in Byfield, so her trip served two purposes.
Boston College freshman Matt Macomber of Beverly was in charge of the ball kids, who also included Jared Gough, Kellie Shea, Kelsey Duryea and Myles O'Neil of Beverly; Allie Barry of Beverly Farms; Olivia Dumont, Maggie Cellucci, Charlie Swayze, Spencer Canny, Matt Melamed and Luke Kaneb of Manchester; Kaitlyn Kelley of Ipswich; Will Gribbell of Wenham; and Tom Adie of Andover.
The Freedoms nipped the Lobsters, 22-21, after a 7-6 super tiebreaker. Williams won, 5-4, in singles; 5-2 in women's doubles, and lost in mixed doubles, 5-3.