Venus and Serena Stick to Own Tour
Venus and Serena Stick to Own Tour
Feb 24, 2003
Venus and Serena Williams used to talk about taking on the men -- in the days when they had yet to conquer the women's tour. Yes, that time did exist.
But no more.
Maybe it was losing to journeyman Karsten Braasch of Germany in 1998 during the Australian Open in a casual session avidly tracked by the media on Court 12. Then ranked No. 203 in the world, Braasch beat Serena, 6-1, and Venus, 6-2, and puffed on a cigarette during changeovers.
Or maybe it's simply maturity.
Whatever the reason, they don't mention the topic anymore, and Serena emphatically shuts the door on that line of questioning. Typically, she says: "I'm a lady. Most of the time, I always like to play ladies."
Braasch wrote a column about the experience for the British newspaper The Observer in September 2001 and complimented their abilities.
"However, if you've been playing on the men's tour there are certain shots you can play that are going to put them in difficulty," he wrote. "Try and put a lot of spin on the ball -- I was hitting the ball with a degree of spin they don't face week in, week out. Another key is to chase down every shot. In our match, they were putting shots into the corners that on the women's tour would be winners but I was able to return them."
He revealed he prepared for the occasion by not taking it seriously; he golfed in the morning and downed a couple of "shandies" -- beer mixed with ginger ale or 7-up. Tasty, but hardly the breakfast of champions.
That amusing sidelight aside, there is still an immense curiosity about how the sisters would fare against male players. Although Braasch said they would have no chance against anyone in the top 500 because he was playing "like 600," the issue surfaced again recently because of a female in another sport.
Would a female tennis player want to follow Annika Sorenstam's lead? The Swedish golfer accepted an invitation to play in the Colonial in May.
"I've never had one ounce of hankering," Lindsay Davenport said. "I don't think it's comparable at all. I don't think I would do well at all."
Davenport laughed as she answered the question and sounded a tad exasperated when asked if there were a lot of men who could beat Serena.
"Yeah," she said, and for a second it sounded as though she was going to add the words "as if."
"It's totally different sport," Davenport said. "They're much more athletic, they hit the ball much much harder. It's not even comparable....
"I'm of the opinion where we have our own tours and I don't think there should be people jumping tours, men or women. If the women have their own tour, that's where they belong."
Double the Fun
Serena Williams did play against men -- sort of -- when she and James Blake played mixed doubles at the Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia, last month. After winning two mixed doubles titles with Max Mirnyi of Belarus and reaching the 1999 Australian Open final with him, Williams said she had retired from playing mixed, but changed her mind in January.
Blake was impressed.
"Playing with Serena was a lot of fun," he said. "I think she surprised some of the guys with how well she was returning. She surprised me a little bit. It was a lot of fun and made my job much easier."
The biggest difference for local fans this year at Indian Wells will be the schedule on the final weekend.
As in the past, the women's tournament will begin first, on March 5, and run through March 16. The men will start March 10. The difference is that both the men's and women's finals will be on Sunday, March 16, a concession to television, officials said. Organizers said the men's final will be first, at 9:30 a.m., and will be best-of-three sets. The women's final follows.
Prize money is $2.1 million for the women and $2.45 million for the men. The men's semifinals are March 15, the women's March 14.
Three of the top four women -- the Williams sisters and No. 4-ranked Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium -- will skip the event, but all the other top women will be there. Jennifer Capriati is scheduled to make her first appearance at Indian Wells since 2000.
All of the top men are entered, although it seems increasingly questionable whether Pete Sampras will be returning to action anytime soon, if at all.
* "Even 10 years after we retire from tennis, I will be friends with Guga, and that is not something I can say about every tennis player." Carlos Moya of Spain after beating Gustavo Kuerten in the semifinals at Buenos Aires.
* "Winning titles is just a bonus for me. I didn't come back only to try and take home trophies. It was to continually try and improve the way I play and first and foremost to have fun. The secret to doubles is to find a good partner, and I've certainly got one." Martina Navratilova after winning the doubles title in Dubai with Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia.