8,000 watch Williams sisters
By TODD HOLCOMB
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 12/02/04
It was more concert than tennis match, and Venus and Serena Williams felt so at ease with it that they took up a microphone themselves as backup singers for a quick tune in their first live performance in Atlanta.
With teen pop singer JoJo and jazz saxophonist Mike Phillips opening, the Williams sisters then took the court not so much as tennis players but icons of popular culture as two of the richest women in sports.
''They're trend-setters, not just in tennis but as entrepreneurs while at the peak of their tennis careers,'' said Atlanta resident LaToya Brown, who could name the sisters' design companies, V Starr Interiors and Aneres. "They're role models, especially for the African-American community.''
It was the last of a three-city tour that hit Detroit and Chicago last month, and drew a crowd of about 8,000 to Philips Arena.
What the sisters would wear seemed more suspenseful than the match itself, but the crowd got no knee-high boots or low-cut tops.
''I think it's outrageous what Serena wears,'' said 16-year-old Chantell Chiles of Douglasville. ''It's a good outrageous, even though it's different than what most people would wear.''
On this night, each was dressed in pink and white, with classic tennis pleated skirts. Serena had her long hair in a bow, while Venus sported a new short haircut pulled by a headband.
The match benefited the Ronald McDonald House for families of cancer-stricken children and finished up a day in which the sisters visited the local McDonald house on Peachtree-Dunwoody Road and performed a tennis clinic for about 400 school children at Georgia Tech.
''We didn't grow up in the best area, but we had mom and dad and sisters who have supported us through everything,'' Serena said. "Our message is to believe in yourself and get a role model that you can look up to and strive to be like them.''
The match also served as a finale to the Williamses' year, which was a struggle by their standards. One or the other pulled out of tournaments 12 times due to illness or injury, and for the first time since 1999, a Williams didn't win one of the four majors. That didn't keep Serena from earning $2.25 million and Venus $1.47 million, though.