Tennis life remains a net gain for Williams sisters
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Story by Dennis Manoloff
Plain Dealer Reporter
Even when they are not busy, the Williams sisters are busy. Better known simply as Venus and Serena, they have so much to do - books, clothing lines, reality shows, special appearances - and so little time. Oh, by the way, they happen to be pretty good at tennis, too.
One of Venus and Serena's many projects involves the Ronald McDonald House Charities. It brings them to Cleveland on Thursday. Their schedule for the day includes an exhibition match at The Q at 8 p.m.
Several weeks ago, D-Man's World was able to track down Venus and Serena for a chat - but it wasn't easy. Venus was on the East Coast; Serena, the West. They were reached three hours apart, by phone, and only for a few minutes each. Even with the restricted time frame, however, they managed to be engaging, as usual.
Q: What motivates you at this stage, tenniswise, given what you already have accomplished?
Serena: Thereís soooo much left to be done on the court. We have so many goals, and weíre so young. We want to win more Grand Slams.
Venus: Iím very happy with the results in my career ó itís more than a dream come true ó but I love what I do. I love being successful at it. And I know thereís only a limited amount of time to do what I do well.
Q: How do you juggle all the offcourt activities with the work required to be great on it?
Serena: Everyone says we might be distracted, but Iíve had so many other opportunities Iíve turned down because Iím at tournaments. Tennis definitely is No. 1 in my life.
Venus: Tennis is at the top of my list. I appreciate what I do every month, every year, as I get older. Tennis has allowed us to do everything else.
Q: What do people most misunderstand about each of you?
Venus: Nothing, really. I think people do understand me. They see Iím a person who loves what I do, who loves to have fun. I think people feel my joy on the court.
Serena: The biggest misunderstanding about me is: Why, with all the other opportunities, would I still want to play tennis? Well, the answer is, I love the game.
Q: What do people most misunderstand about your father?
Venus: (laughter) I think it would take a few years to understand him, so probably everything. (more laughter) Heís a cool guy. Iím glad heís my dad.
Serena: They donít realize my father is the nicest guy in the world. When people meet him, they canít believe it. Heís so sweet, one of the most genuine people out there.
Q: One characteristic of your sister you wish you had?
Serena: Venus has a stone face on the court. She never gets mad. Iím always mad and angry and, like, ďUgghhh.Ē Venus is like ďOh, well, Iíll get her next time.Ē Thatís her attitude in life, as well.
Venus: Serena does what she wants to do. She goes for it. She doesnít let the person next to her determine what sheís going to do, and sheís not going to worry about anybody thinks.
Q: How often do you consult with your sister off the court?
Venus: All the time, definitely, all the time. I want to know what sheís doing. (Chuckle) I want to know if sheís going to be where I am.
Q: Have you ever wondered what it would have been like as two distinct solo careers instead of the sister act?
Serena: Iíve never thought about that, but I guess it would have been interesting.
Venus: Sure Iíve wondered about that, but what we have is great. Nobody else has a sister on tour with the relationship Serena and I do. If anything, I wish more of my sisters had played tennis professionally, and if it had been at the same time, even better.
Q: Imagine if you had two dominant players covering two eras instead of one.
Serena: That would have been fun. But I like it better this way, because I get to spend time with my sister, laughing and joking and things like that. And you never know what the results would have been without us pushing each other.
Q: Any resentment toward those who get a lot of notoriety off the court but have not delivered on it?
Venus: No. I think everyone has his or her own thing, and whatever you have as your strong point, you should try to capitalize on it as best you can.
Serena: I donít resent anyone. Itís easy to point fingers and say stuff, but I wonít do it. Iím happy for whatever comes to whatever individual, because you never know what people have been through in life.
Q: Can it be assumed, then, that neither one of you is down on Anna Kournikova?
Serena: Oh, no. I love her. Sheís so nice. Sheís awesome. We love her.
Venus: To be honest, I thought she was a great player. I thought the media might have prevented her from being her best.
Q: Seriously, Venus?
Venus: Yes, because maybe she wasnít prepared for all the criticism of her play. Itís hard to handle that kind of pressure.
Q: If WTA commissioner for a day, what is one change you would make?
Venus: Definitely shorten the season.
Q: Venus Ė one item you could not do without?
Venus: My 311 album.
Q: Serena Ė I read on your Web site that your favorite TV show is Golden Girls. Is that actually true?
Serena: Yes. Isnít it ridiculous?
Q: Well, as long as you say so, yeah. It seems to be an odd pairing.
Serena: I love the Golden Girls. Iíve seen every episode 20 times. I just got an autographed copy of the second season on DVD.
Q: Do you watch reruns?
Serena: Yes, but Iíve moved on to another show ó Americaís Top Model. I love Tyra Banks.
Q: Serena Ė when you broke out the tight black-leather outfit, you knew it would cause a stir . . .
Serena: I didnít know it would cause so much excitement.
Q: Are you saying that with a straight face?
Serena: Yes. I was just thinking, This is comfortable, so Iíll wear it. I was surprised by the reaction. It didnít seem like a big deal to me.
Q: You have worn other sexy outfits in becoming a woman of style on the court. Are you concerned it might take attention away from your tennis skills?
Serena: No. I think people understand Iím a true athlete. It hasnít distracted, itís added.
Q: The Williams sisters have dominated in a predominantly Caucasian sport, and done so on their own terms. I would imagine both of you have been subjected to pockets of ugliness, yet you never seem to rail against it or otherwise complain about it. How have you managed such restraint?
Serena: Weíve definitely kept a lot of it in. We understand that you have to roll with the punches. Everything isnít always going to be good. You have to take the bad with the good.
Q: Because of how easy you both made it look when you arrived as pros, do you think those on the outside took for granted how hard you worked to get there?
Venus: I donít expect everyone to see the deeper side of things, and what it took and what it takes. Iíve been a working girl since I was 4. I have the results, so itís been worth it.
Q: Serena Ė one thing in which you canít beat Venus, and vice versa?
Serena: Venus runs much faster than I do, but Iím a better swimmer.
Q: The Williams sisters endorse McDonaldís and do good work for its charitable arm. But how can such tremendous athletes consume fast food and remain in top form?
Venus: Well, itís all about having a balanced diet, and, actually, McDonaldís has introduced a lot of great things for its menu.