What the hell is going on with Venus!?!
-- Ollando, Toronto
We heard about 50 variations of this question, but yours gets right to the point. It's not just that she is losing. It's how and to whom. Even on her worst days, losing a third-set breaker on hard courts to a meatball-serving Dementieva would have been inconceivable. Even at half speed, she would have found a way to beat a talented-but-inexperienced arriviste like Svetlana Kuznetsova
. To use a phrase that came up repeatedly in your letters, clearly she is "a shadow of her former self."
That said, I think it's too early to write her off. This, remember, is a player who not that long ago won four Slams
in 14 months
. When healthy, she's as athletic and powerful as any other player. Plus she once had a knack for pulling out matches when she needed to. Emotionally, she's been through a hell of a lot in the past few years. And you have to believe that the trouble spots in her game -- the blizzard of double faults, the flying forehands, the attackable second serve -- are owed more to mental factors
than to technical flaws. Some sessions with a sports psychologist
world do her a world of good. Right now the elevator is headed in the wrong direction. But I still think if Venus gets some traction and her swagger back (and they perpetuate each other), she's a top 5 player again. It's really up to her.
Dammit! I think that I may have to agree with Wertheim in some part. A lot of emotional issues have chipped at the confidence and desire of VENUS
and a sports shrink can do no harm at this point in her career.
I'll get in touch with Tony Soprano's shrink in the meantime.