Williams: Daughters' success 'American dream'
By Andrea Leand, special to USA TODAY
Richard Williams' prediction that his daughters, Venus and Serena, would one day dominate tennis came to fruition last week at the French Open. The sisters' surge to the Grand Slam final guaranteed Venus and Serena the respective No. 1 and 2 rankings, not to mention a combined sixth Grand Slam singles title.
There were no post-match victory dances or dramatics from the proud father at this Grand Slam. Williams skipped the trip to Paris to pursue his latest venture in the USA. News of Serena's French Open triumph came via a cell phone as he drove down a Florida highway after promoting his new sports drink, Smash.
The historic moment, marking the first time two siblings have reached the French Open final and held the top two spots, left him satisfied if not surprised and distressed by remarks from Jennifer Capriati.
"They (Venus and Serena) finally caught up with my prediction," Williams said moments after Serena edged Venus 7-5, 6-3 for her second Grand Slam title.
"This is the American dream come true. This is a dream that started in 1978. It's the most satisfying day of my life. This shows that it doesn't matter where you start, you can achieve anything."
In becoming students of the game, both sisters made significant changes in their tournament scheduling and training regimen in the last year. Newly hired trainer Kerri Brooks enforced more structured fitness and diet programs. Curbing extracurricular activities, including schooling at the Fashion Institute in Fort Lauderdale, allowed them to gain more match play, court sense and confidence.
"Venus and Serena didn't just get here. They had to work extremely hard," Williams said. "They were willing to listen, listen to me very well. It wasn't fair to compare them years ago when (Martina) Hingis had 54 matches and they only had 19."
Capriati, who dropped from No. 1 to No. 3, suggested that the Williams' recent rise resulted from the absences of injured stars Lindsay Davenport and Hingis. Capriati also asserted that the Williams' relatively separate tournament schedules — preventing them from facing each other too often — helped them climb the rankings.
"There's a lot of things that have happened that kind of made them in this position," Capriati said after losing to Serena in the French Open semifinal. "You know, they were pretty good with planning things. One plays; one doesn't. But mostly it's just because not everyone is in the game. I mean, it would be nice to see people coming back and really see what happens then."
Venus and Serena refused to respond, pointing to their winning records against Davenport, Hingis and Capriati in the last two years. Capriati's assertion also overlooked the fact that her jump to No. 1 occurred during Venus' injury layoff last fall and Davenport's surgery at this year's onset.
"Jennifer is always making excuses," Richard Williams said. "Venus and Serena have beaten all of them, Jennifer, Lindsay and Martina. But Jennifer gets angry when she's losing and says these bad things.
"(Capriati) should have come to the French Open as a spectator this year. She was going to lose anyway, so she should have just come and watched, so she could have figured out how to play Venus and Serena instead of looking at the computer game. No one has to destroy Jennifer because she is destroying herself. Until she takes responsibility for herself, she is always going to have problems."
The sparring for No. 1 should intensify at Wimbledon, where Davenport will return from her injury layoff. Venus will face the pressure to defend her title as Capriati did at the French Open. Williams does not believe the heightened expectations and competition will faze his daughters.
"There is no one who is going to catch up to Venus and Serena right now," Williams said. "No one has both the mental and physical games to do it. Lindsay has the power but does not have the speed. Hingis does not have the strength and power. And Jennifer is a fierce competitor but gets nervous when it comes to playing the Williams girls. She can't stay out there with them.
"The only ones going to beat Venus and Serena are the next two I coach. I'm looking for them now. The WTA (Tour) probably won't even let them onto the tour."