Forgive me all for giving Venus her props again with this post - but I just love the way the writer wrote this. And especially, the first pargraph.
"CONGRATULATIONS VENUS ON WINNING THE BOTW 2002 TOURNEY" "YOU WERE ON FIRE - GIRLIE-GIRL" "KEEP IT UP AND KEEP ON KEEPING ON"
"NOW LET'S GET JIGGY W/IT AND DO THE DANCE CALLED THE WEST COAST SWEEP" "DEFEND TO THE END - VENUS"
Not much opposition for classy Williams
Bruce Jenkins, Chronicle Staff Writer Monday, July 29, 2002
THE BATTLE ends so quickly for Venus Williams. One last punishing shot,
an earnest handshake at the net, and then she's an entirely new person.
With graceful, carefree waves to the crowd, she looks like an upscale socialite about to embark on a Caribbean cruise. The rest of us stand dockside,
hoping she has a wonderful time.
To catch her in that moment, you couldn't imagine the single-minded destruction that preceded it. In a vintage Sunday performance that humbled Kim Clijsters, brought gasps of appreciation from the crowd and earned her the Bank of the West title at Stanford, Venus gave everyone a taste of big-time power tennis -- for now and the foreseeable future.
Because the outcome seems so inevitable (against anyone but her sister, Serena), and because she's too classy to spice up a match with obscenities or broken rackets, the mind tends to wander while watching Venus. It drifts into the past, and an era of tennis that makes a 30-year gap seem like a century.
Before the Jimmy Connors-led crew came along and changed everything, crushing the two-handed backhand and fostering an attitude of relentless baseline aggression, the game was played in relative slow motion -- and that's the men's game we're talking about. Watching the old films, it is not merely obvious that players used wooden rackets and an infinite variety of shots. They didn't think like Venus Williams or the other big names in women's tennis today. Even fiery competitors like Pancho Gonzales and Tony Trabert didn't unload a full-power laser beam on every single shot.
"When you're playing Venus," Clijsters said afterward, "you feel like every shot has to be perfect. She hits the ball so hard and has so much range, you just can't make any mistakes."
So how good is the women's game, relative to the men? Watching Venus against Andre Agassi might not be a pretty sight, but what about the John McEnroe challenge that seems to surface every few months? The purists scoff, and without question, the thing could turn into a circus, but it might not be long before the women's tour runs out of legitimate opposition and McEnroe seems a worthy alternative.
Even at 43, McEnroe could confound Venus with his big-bending, left-handed serve. At close range, trying to catch up to her fearsome groundstrokes, he might not be so quick to belittle Venus or any other female player. Still, he'd throw a little imagination into the match, with his volleys and touch and general court sense. Martina Hingis is a thoughtful player when healthy, but nobody else offers the Williams sisters any kind of strategic challenge -- and even at that, Hingis stays mostly at the baseline.
What McEnroe could do, if not win the match outright, is provide a spark. There would have to be somebody out there to recognize the inherent genius in McEnroe's game. Maybe a 12-year-old prospect who looks beyond the baseline, who would rather hit her backhand with slice and topspin, with force and touch,
instead of turning loose the same shot every time. Then the sport would move forward.
Not that Venus doesn't have a few ideas. At 5-3 and 30-all in the first set,
she suddenly rushed to the net behind a forward-moving groundstroke. This amounted to Shaquille O'Neal shooting an underhand free throw, or Tiger Woods using Bernhard Langer's putter; you just don't see it.
Clijsters screamed as her passing shot was sent back, decisively, but in fact it was a lunging, backhanded volley winner from Venus -- a fleeting meteor for now, but perhaps a sign of the future. She also surprised everyone with an exquisite forehand drop shot, from just inside the baseline, so perfect that even Clijsters' quick reaction wasn't enough.
Such moments are telling when it comes to Venus' staying power in the public eye. Commissioners argue for parity but the fans know better; they enjoy great teams and truly dominant athletes. The brand of appeal comes from all directions: style (Muhammad Ali), humility (Derek Jeter), arrogance (Pedro Martinez), well-timed emotion (Woods). There is great beauty in Venus' stoicism, but if her game takes on additional depth and creativity, there will be a freshness to her command. And for Serena's, as well.
So there was Venus after Sunday's win, chatting comfortably with the press and reiterating that Stanford, and the whole Bay Area, is one of her favorite places. "I always have a great time here," she said. "Went to Pier 39 and Chinatown, did a lot of things. But not Alcatraz. That's always sold out."
Not to worry. At day's end, there's a cruise ship waiting for Venus. It's a very private line, with destinations fit only for her.