Great LA Times Article on all things Williams
With Serena Williams winning the U.S. Open, Venus Williams taking Wimbledon, and the two teaming to win an Olympic doubles gold medal, all signs point to another leap for Richard Williams' daughters.
By Chuck Culpepper, Special to The Times
September 9, 2008
NEW YORK -- The man who 30 years ago had no tennis background but had the strangest inkling he could shape his daughters into tennis champions leaned on a table outside Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday night and lauded the sublime U.S. Open play of his daughter.
Richard Williams meant his other daughter.
The summer of 2008 has become such a fresh crescendo Williams-wise that Richard had veered from discussing his U.S. Open champion, Serena Williams, to note the woman Serena edged in the quarterfinals, Venus Williams. He had two supernovas to discuss, and he lamented that their high-caliber quarterfinal had not been a final.
"Just seeing Venus over there in the stands, I feel bad," the father said. "That's why I'm wearing the cap."
Indeed, the black cap atop his head bore the interwoven "VW" logo of Venus' clothing line.
And indeed, Venus' quality in this U.S. Open had been towering.
And indeed, the recent history of women's tennis has shifted firmly back to the Williams-centric setting from which it strayed beginning in 2003, except that this particular Williams chapter bears the fresh paradigm of a heightened appreciation for the two sisters from Compton and Florida, based partly on their longevity.
They lost zero sets at Wimbledon until they played each other in the final, which Venus won 7-5, 6-4. They won the Olympic doubles title and took on starry-eyed looks whenever they recollected that experience. They played a U.S. Open quarterfinal of such lofty quality that the New York audience eventually gave a booming standing ovation during a second-set tiebreaker in a match won by Serena, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (8).
They have both looked positively regal.
They're 28 and almost-27, and by now it's rote to list the players who rivaled them from 2003 to 2007 but have ebbed for one reason or another, including Jennifer Capriati, Amelie Mauresmo, Kim Clijsters, Lindsay Davenport, Martina Hingis and, foremost, Justine Henin.
Yet as Serena regained the No. 1 ranking after an unprecedentedly long interruption of five years, one month, their father leaned on the table and said, "No, I never doubted . . . And I don't doubt Venus is going to take No. 1."
For now, Serena reigns with a will her father rates as a combination of "a pit bulldog, a young Mike Tyson and an alligator."
She has just torn through a U.S. Open in the minimum 14 sets, demonstrated her resolve by rebuffing 14 set points -- 10 against her sister and four against Jelena Jankovic in the final -- and said of the whole thing, "Magical."
Having not won a U.S. Open since 2002 or a Grand Slam since January 2007, she said, "It was everything coming together, like magic."
At nine Grand Slam titles, she said, "I want to get double digits. I feel that I'm at nine and I'm pushing for 10, and I feel like I can do it. I obviously play well all the time in Australia so that's coming up soon. I have to win another French Open" -- she has just one -- "and I love Wimbledon. I definitely had the game to do it."
All this time later, the Williams sisters are all about renewal and freshness. They continually say they're anticipating not only the London 2012 Olympics but the 2016 Games in wherever. Serena speaks, perhaps believably, of waking at 6 some mornings and wanting to practice only to have to wait for light.
Even though Serena trumped Jankovic in the power category in their contentious final, it still took stamina to overcome the Serbian backboard.
"You really have to beat Jelena," said Aleksander Bajin, Serena's hitting partner. "She's not going to give it to you."
After all of that and 61 months outside No. 1, it's no wonder Serena took to hopping after match point, a scene that combined with the standing ovation and the Beijing medal ceremony to epitomize the heady Williams summer. Richard Williams had not even seen the quarterfinal -- "I heard a lot of people say they both played well, but I could never watch them play; that would be too much to watch" -- but he did see the final celebration up close as Serena fell into his arms.
"I never knew Serena to be very, very excited," her father said. "I knew Serena to be very, very mean. I've always known her to be mean and arrogant, doesn't like people to try to say anything to her that she doesn't like you to say. If you do, she might try to hit you with the ball."
So the Williams summer ended with Serena at nine Grand Slam titles, Venus at seven and Richard saying he doesn't keep count or care beyond that they "compete like hell like Jimmy Connors."
It also ended with Serena holding her U.S. Open trophy and posing, posing, posing for the camera throng that included Richard in his "VW" cap, and Venus in the audience smiling and chatting on her mobile phone, perhaps reporting the scene, but with a cheery countenance that suggested her father needn't have worried.