Book: Richard Williams Played It Smart
Book: Richard Williams played it smart
By Tom Weir, USA TODAY
WIMBLEDON, England — With Venus and Serena Williams having made good on their father's prediction that they one day would face each other for the Wimbledon championship, Richard Williams is getting a second look.
Perhaps the closest look available at how the Williamses were molded into the world's Nos. 1 and 2 women in tennis is available in a just-published book by their former hitting coach.
In Venus & Serena, My Seven Years as Hitting Coach for the Williams Sisters (Frederick Fell Publishers, $22.95), Dave Rineberg says he presents some eye-opening anecdotes about Richard's eccentricities. But even though Rineberg essentially was fired by Richard after a 1992-99 run as hitting coach, he stresses Richard made many key moves that are coming to fruition for the two most-dominant women in tennis.
"When they were 4 and 5 years old, Richard had that dream, and he kept them focused on it," says Rineberg, speaking by phone while on a U.S. book tour. "You've got to give him all the credit."
One of Richard's key moves, Rineberg says, was to heavily limit his daughters' competition during their junior years.
"His whole plan of pulling the girls and not letting them play junior tennis, that they were only going to train for the pros, that was a great plan," Rineberg says. "He also was really good about pulling them off the court for five weeks at a time and saying, 'We're going to Disney World.' He let them have a pretty normal childhood. They weren't burning out."
Those moves look especially smart with signs that Anna Kournikova's game is in decline and former No. 1 Martina Hingis is breaking down physically. Both played WTA Tour tournaments at 15.
"I'm not bashing him," Rineberg says. "But I'm telling some stories that are pretty far out."
One is of Rineberg's first meeting with Richard, at a car wash in Florida, where Rineberg says Richard wouldn't start talking until after activating the machinery.
Says Rineberg: "He said, 'Dave, I hope you don't mind, but this is to drown out our voices. Everybody wants to know what my next move is, even the FBI.' "
The Williams sisters spent much of Wimbledon sticking up for their dad, who wasn't at the tournament. Instead their mother, Oracene, who's estranged from Richard, accompanied her daughters to England. Both sisters stressed that both parents still coach them and they still talk to Richard regularly.
"I speak to him almost every day," Serena said after winning the doubles titles with Venus on Sunday, one day after Serena beat Venus for the singles title.
Venus said not having their father at a tournament "makes a big difference ... He's just so motivating."
Rineberg, who says he was dismissed from the Williams camp after making himself available for media interviews, isn't surprised Serena beat Venus for the last two Grand Slam tournament titles.
"I just think Venus lacks that killer instinct against her sister," Rineberg says. "I don't think Venus backs off, I just think if Serena is playing well, then she's not going to grind it out like she would against Hingis or (Jennifer) Capriati."
But Rineberg predicts Venus will regain the upper hand.
"I think Serena could be the stronger player in the short term, but I don't think so in the long term. I think Venus has the stronger head," Rineberg says. "Serena has more variety to her game, but I think Venus is the biggest hitter."
As for Saturday's slugfest, the best Serena-Venus showdown yet in a major tournament, Rineberg doubts that intensity will continue.
"I think the fire of really wanting to knock each other's brains out just isn't there," Rineberg says. "They love each other too much."