V & S take a break from tennis & controversy (C/P)
TAKING A BREAK FROM TENNIS AND CONTROVERSY
Venus and Serena: happy to be home ... and giving back
By Sandra Harwitt
Even the construction traffic on I-95 that has been infuriating Palm Beach County residents for months and caused the Williams sisters to be close to an hour late to announce the 2nd Annual JPMorgan Chase Tennis Challenge benefiting the OWL Foundation on April 6 at the Delray Beach Tennis Center, didn't dampen their enthusiasm for being home this week.
Normally, Venus and Serena would be spending this week in the Coachella Valley playing the Pacific Life Open as they have in the past. But an unfortunate incident at last year's tournament, which was won by Serena, has led the siblings to stay home to relax, practice, shop and go to the beach.
Here's the quick review for anyone who doesn't know what occurred at Indian Wells in 2001 – an injured Venus pulled out of playing the semifinal against Serena right before the match, fans were so upset that they booed Serena, as well as Venus and her father, Richard, when Serena came out to play the final. While an argument can be made that the sisters would have made a better statement by showing up in Indian Wells this year, keeping their heads high and showcasing their talent, Serena did provide an excellent reasoning for not heading west.
"When we play tennis we like to have fun," Serena said. "We go places we enjoy playing – we're entertainers and we entertain the crowd. If we can't entertain then our job is over and I don't think we were doing a great job entertaining them last year. We go places we feel we're happy."
As for Venus, she's just appreciating the time-off. Realizing that the only way she would ever secure the world No. 1 ranking, which she clearly was deserving of, would be to set off on a grueling play schedule, Venus left the country after Christmas and didn't return until late February. Her five-tournament stint not only produced three titles, but on Feb. 25 she earned that top of the charts distinction for the first time in her career.
"It feels great to be home, we're never home," said Venus, who won both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open titles in 2000 an 2001. "We like the extra time off believe it or not."
VENUS WAS A BIG WINNER IN EUROPE
There was no doubt that Venus found her sojourn to Australia, where she won the Adelaide trophy and reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in January, followed by winning back-to-back trophies at Paris and Antwerp before ending her trip in the semifinals of Dubai, as arduous as expected. Worrying that it would be too tough to play so frequently is one reason the sisters have previously ducked playing such heavy schedules.
"Mentally, I was ready to be away so long," Venus said. "But, after a while, physically I was kind of broken. I was starting to be injured because I was playing too much. After a while you start pulling muscles, they're nothing serious but they keep you from playing well. I think next year I'll only play two tournaments in a row instead of three."
Venus, saying she's "happy doing what I'm doing," suggested that she might keep to a more rigorous schedule for a while.
"I like being No. 1 and I'd like to stay there, but I don't know if I can play 22 events to stay there, maybe 17 or 18," Venus said. "Now I'm looking at things differently; I'm only going to be playing a few years in my whole life so I should probably play a bit more. Tennis never got boring, but for me, but with my personality, I have to keep things exciting and do other things like school."
PLAYING FOR CHARITY
Both sisters are especially happy to be involved with the JPMorgan Chase Tennis Challenge, an event founded by their mother, Oracene. The charity event benefits The Owl Foundation that was also started by Oracene to provide assistance to youth with special educational needs. In this year's event, Venus will play a singles match against fellow pro, Alexandra Stevenson, and Serena will take part in doubles action with tennis stars yet to be named.
"I want to thank my mom for giving us good values so that we can appreciate doing events like this and teaching us to give back to the community," Venus said. "In my opinion when you give back, you feel good about yourself because you're making progress, not for yourself but for others."
SHOP TILL YOU DROP
Shopping is clearly a special downtime activity for both Venus and Serena and it seems like they keep the other one in mind when out for a bargain. Venus took advantage of the "negotiating" style of purchasing that is traditional in Dubai and didn't forget to bring a present home for Serena.
"I got into deep trouble – I brought home many, many things I should have left behind," said Venus, of the Dubai shopping spree. "I did buy some antiques that are being shipped back – antique table and old doors that are Indian."
After chatting about the upcoming JPMorgan Chase Tennis Challenge on Tuesday afternoon in Delray, the two were delighted to find a beach boutique right next to the trendy Peter's On The Beach restaurant we're they held their press conference. Since shopping should be a private outing, here's just a glimpse of the trip next door – both Venus and Serena went for bikinis!