Friday, December 02, 2005
Mary Schmitt Boyer
Plain Dealer Reporter
Venus Williams fiddled with the courtside microphone a bit before she finally got it to work.
"Thank you, Cleveland," she shouted after her 6-4, 6-4 victory
over her sister Serena as the Williams Sisters Tour played to a crowd of approximately 6,000 at The Q arena on Thursday night.
In reality, Cleveland should be thanking the Williams sisters, whose first trip to Cleveland was a whirlwind of activity from early morning until the match wound up at 10:45 p.m.
This was the second stop for the tour, which is in its second season. Serena beat Venus, 6-4, 6-3, in Seattle on Nov. 17. They will visit Washington, D.C. next Thursday.
It was an evening full of fun, featuring performances by recording artist Brian McKnight, jazz saxophonist Mike Phillips and Lyndrea Price, Venus and Serena's sister. Then Venus and Serena warmed up with Nicole Gibbs and Kyle McPhillips, ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the girls 12 and under category of the U.S. Tennis Association.
But there was a serious side as well. The sisters presented a check for $30,000 to the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
The match capped an exhausting day for the Williams sisters. Here's a look at how they spent their day in Cleveland.
7:10 a.m.-8:40 a.m.:
Morning comes way too early. Their flight from Miami didn't arrive in Cleveland until 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. Although they arrive promptly at 7:10 for a round of interviews at Clear Channel, off Rockside Road, they appear less than enthusiastic -- until the television camera lights come on. Then the sleepyheads perk up for the first of three segments with WJW Fox 8's Kenny Crumpton, who challenges them to a game of pingpong.
They spend a couple of minutes with Joshua Bass, 12, a budding sportscaster who is a seventh-grader at Hawken School. He conducts his interview while sitting between the sisters.
The only sign of his nervousness is the slight blush on his cheeks.
"Any advice for me on my big day?" he asks.
"Enjoy the day," Venus tells him.
From there, the sisters go from studio to studio, spending two or three minutes in each session with WMJI's Lanigan and Malone, WTAM's Bill Wills and Mike Snyder, WGAR's Mantel and Michelle and WMVX's Brian and Joe.
Lanigan notes, correctly, that they're not morning people as Venus stifles a big yawn.
"So, if they had matches at 7 o'clock in the morning . . .?" he asks.
"We wouldn't be the Williams sisters," Serena says, laughing.
Playing off the sisters' love of fashion and the stunning outfits they wear on the court, Crumpton greets them for his final segment wearing a pink knit hat, a pink polo shirt, red shorts with flowered trim, pink wrist bands, a pink sock and black dress shoe on his left foot and a black sock and golf shoe on his left foot.
"I'm not feeling it," Serena says.
8:40 a.m.-10:30 a.m.: Riding in a Porsche SUV, the sisters make their way through the tail end of rush-hour traffic for an interview at WKYC. On the way, Venus does a phone interview with WQAL's Allan Fee and Rebecca Wilde. Venus gets an attack of the giggles during the interview with Good Company's Michael Cardamone but somehow manages to recover and finish. On the way to WCPN to tape an interview with Dee Perry, the sisters make an emergency stop at Starbucks on 14th and Euclid, where they run into Mayor-Elect Frank Jackson and pose for pictures.
10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.: Shayma Alsaqqaf welcomes the sisters to the Ronald McDonald House by showing off her hula hoop skills, prompting the sisters to each take a turn. Shayma is a 7-year-old from the United Arab Emirates who was born without an esophagus. She has spent eight to 10 months a year here since she was born.
"This is our whole life," said her father Habib. "Hopefully, this is the last time. My daughter is doing very nice. This is God's great gift. God bless those who choose to do this job."
At a large table in the lobby, Venus and Serena sit down with a group of youngsters to decorate some door hangers at the facility, which houses young patients facing long hospital stays, along with their parents.
They're really nice," patient Tara Truehitt, 22, of Morehead, Ky., said of the sisters. Truehitt has been coming here for two or three months at a time since being diagnosed with a colo-rectal problem in 1998. "This place is everything for me," she said.
After spending about 20 minutes working on the crafts, the sisters hold a third round of interviews with local television and print reporters. Asked why they supported Ronald McDonald House Charities, Venus said, "It's important to give back. . . . We all have to be neighbors to each other."
11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones provided the introduction and WKYC anchor Romona Robinson was the emcee as the sisters conducted a question-and-answer session with 600 Cleveland Public School children at the Allen Theater.
Greeted by a screaming standing ovation, Venus and Serena really come alive. Robinson asked them questions submitted by the students.
"Do you argue?" (Yes.)
"Do you have wedding plans in the near future?" (No.)
"Is it lonely being famous?" (Sometimes.)
Asked her favorite cities to travel to, Venus smiled and said, "New York . . . L.A. . . . CLEVELAND!"
1 p.m.-5 p.m.: Rest.
5 p.m.-7:30 p.m.: The sisters take in a VIP reception for sponsors at the Marriott Key Center, before attending a second reception for fans at the Q, where they sign autographs for 40 minutes. After eight hours of talking, smiling and posing, the Williams sisters are finally ready to play tennis.
To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:
A friend who was in attendance said those two are just unbeliveably sweet and patient and likable , and it was amazing to watch them with the kids at Ronald McDonald house. She has plenty of pics-- I will share them as soon as she sends them over
Oh they both said they are single during th oncourt interview last night .