Cronin Article on Venus
Mature Venus bids for third U.S. Open Crown
By Matthew Cronin
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Six-times grand slam champion Venus Williams is no longer the wide-eyed teen who surprised the tennis world when she reached the U.S. Open final a decade ago.
Although Williams has been through a treadmill of injuries and ups and down since 1997, the 27-year-old is not planning on retiring soon.
In 1997, her father and coach Richard predicted that Venus and her younger sister, eight-times grand slam champion Serena, would leave the sport before they hit their mid-20s to pursue other careers.
But both are still there and Wimbledon champion Venus has a list of on-court goals.
"It's hard to predict what will happen 10 years down the line," she told Reuters on Thursday in a telephone interview from New York, where she will play in next week's U.S. Open.
"During that time, I didn't ever know how to think ahead to the next year. It's still exciting and I love what I do and I will be here as long as I can. I'm really blessed, but if I want more, for sure, I'm not going to let go," Williams said.
She is diversifying off court and has just released a collection of high performance and casual apparel and footwear called "EleVen" with the retailer Steve & Barry's.
Williams went to school to study fashion and helped design all 120 pieces in the collection. She will debut an outfit and shoes, the "V-Court," during the U.S. Open.
"I've always wanted to have a life outside in tennis and I think it makes my tennis greater because it makes me appreciate it more," Williams said.
"These things are important to me and I want to start to do some of the other things that I love before my career is over."
Twice winner Williams enters the U.S. Open as the number 12 seed and could face fifth-ranked Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round, not a fortunate draw for either player.
She is in the top half of the draw, which also includes Serena, top-ranked Justine Henin of Belgium, and Serbian third seed Jelena Jankovic. Defending champion Maria Sharapova is in the other half.
Even though she appears to have a tough road to the final, Williams is optimistic.
"I'm one of the main contenders for the Open," she said. "I have different approaches -- sometimes I say, 'Now the title is mine' but I'll do whatever it takes. I'm going to approach this one match by match."
A wrist injury sidelined Williams for most of the second half of 2006 and the first month of this year but since then she has been her fittest since 2005 and went more than six months without pulling out of a tournament.
However, after a non-stop stretch of play that included Wimbledon, Fed Cup, World TeamTennis and San Diego, she withdrew from Toronto earlier this month with knee problems.
"My knees were hurting and I couldn't get them to calm down," said Williams, who was beaten by sixth ranked Anna Chakvetadze of Russia in San Diego on Aug. 3 and has not played since.
"I took some anti-inflammatories, but I didn't want to be on court under those conditions," she said. "I needed time to give my knees a break and they were saying 'No, V, we don't like how you are treating us'."
Williams added that her knees were now feeling fine and she had been practising well during the past week.
Her two U.S. Open crowns came in 2000 and 2001, when she won back-to-back titles at Wimbledon and New York.
Williams is hoping to regain the form that brought her to her fourth Wimbledon crown last month.
"If I can match my form at Wimbledon I'll be unbeatable," she said. "I feel like I'm playing better but I need to get out there and execute in the matches like I did at Wimbledon. That's what it's all about."