EXHIBITION MATCH: Love, set, elephant
Published on January 02, 2005
Venus gets on a jumbo, falls for Thailand
World No 9 Venus Williams is so impressed with Thailand that she plans to come back in February for a holiday, perhaps with sister Serena.
After a tough training session on Friday, Williams and mother Oracene Price relaxed by going sightseeing around Chiang Mai yesterday and had the time of their life painting umbrellas and riding an elephant.
“It’s a big experience, one that I would never have dreamed of. I could never imagine that I would be riding an elephant in Thailand. There were so many great things to do that I didn’t have time for any training,’’ Williams said.
She is so overwhelmed by her first trip to Thailand that she feels she’s already a winner, even though she has to face Maria Sharapova in today’s exhibition match.
“I feel like I have already won. I have never had this kind of experience before because we don’t have things like this back home in California. My mother and I have said ever since we arrived at the airport that we like it here,’’ the winner of 31 WTA singles trophies said.
Williams, the 2001 Wimbledon and US Open champion, even made a phone call to her sisters including Serena, saying “You wouldn’t believe where I am now.”
She even set a plan to return after the Australian Open and might bring along Serena for a holiday, which will include a spa in Hua Hin.
She even showed interest in participating in October’s inaugural WTA Thailand Open if she receives an invitation.
The American star started her morning programme by visiting the umbrella village in Borsang sub-district where she had her shirt painted with a flying dragon. Her mother had her jeans painted in flowers and butterflies, which drew a large crowd of media and visitors.
Venus, a fashion design student with an interest in interior design, also painted a butterfly on a paper umbrella which will be displayed inside the umbrella painting centre.
Then she went elephant riding at the elephant training centre in Mae Rim district and fed bananas and sugar cane to some elephants. Sharapova enjoyed the same experience later in the afternoon.
Today, Williams will have these experiences behind her when she faces Sharapova in their initial match of the season. In their only meet on the WTA circuit, The Russian beat her 6-3 6-4 in Zurich last year.
“It is impossible to predict who will win. I have to play a wonderful player and it’s going to be a great experience,’’ the 24-year-old said.
After having a moderate 2004 season and failing to reach the quarter-finals of all Grand Slams except at Roland Garros due to injuries, Williams is looking forward to having a good year in 2005.
“I feel very good and am hitting the balls very well. Last year was a challenge for me. I learnt a lot about myself,’’ she said.
With the tremendous success of the Russian wave of players, the big question is whether the Williams sisters can dominate women’s tennis again?
“There are many good players who have worked really hard and deserve it. I myself have had good results, experience, knowledge and a great role in tennis. I couldn’t ask for a whole lot more, but I will. I think 2005 will be a great year for me.”
Williams and Sharapova will hold a clinic for Thai kids this morning. Their match starts at 3pm and will be beamed live on Channel 7 and Star Sports.
The Nation Chiang Mai