Venus / Monica vs. Serena / Novotna at OWL Foundation
Venus and Monica To Meet Serena And Jana In Charity Doubles Event For OWL Foundation
By Richard Pagliaro
Serena Williams started the season by setting an ambitious — and historic — goal for herself: to complete the 2003 campaign undefeated. Three months have passed and the top-ranked Williams' pursuit of perfection is not only progressing as planned, it appears entirely possible she can complete her quest.
The player closest to Serena — both in the rankings and in life — is big-sister Venus, who has lost four consecutive Grand Slam finals to Serena, and believes her sister has "a great chance" to sustain the success that has seen her register a 17-0 record so far and ultimately produce a perfect season.
"I definitely think she has a great chance to do it," Venus said. "She already has a really unbelievable record."
The four-time Grand Slam champion started the season playing sound tennis before falling to Serena in the Australian Open final. It appeared Venus had stepped up her intensity level a bit when she slammed second-seeded Kim Clijsters, 6-2, 6-4 to claim the Proximus Diamond Games championship in Antwerp, Belgium in February. Williams followed that victory by issuing a good-natured challenge to her sister: "If you want to challenge me here, Serena, if you are watching, come on," Venus said.
The momentum Venus began building at the start of the season has faded a bit as she skipped Indian Wells for the second straight season then saw her second serve exposed and her forehand exploited in suffering a 7-6(2), 6-1 defeat to Meghann Shaughnessy in the fourth round of the Nasdaq-100 Open last week.
Tennis has always been part of Venus' life, but never her sole purpose in life.
Responding to reports that her interest in regaining the top spot has subsided as she pursues other interests such as her interior design business, the second-ranked Venus said today she's still committed to her tennis career.
"I just had a bad day — everyone has a bad day," Williams said in assessing her early exit from Key Biscayne. "Everyone has an opinion. I'm feeling great. I'm going to be at home (training) and after that going to Europe to prepare for the French Open."
Venus and Serena will join forces with Shaughnessy and Alexandra Stevenson on the United States' Fed Cup team that hosts the Czech Republic in the Fed Cup first-round tie set for April 26-27th, at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Mass. The presence of the Williams sisters on the squad inspired a sell-out in Lowell and Fed Cup captain Billie Jean King suggested last week the sisters may play doubles together in that tie.
In a conference call with the media today to promote her participation in the JPMorgan Chase Tennis Challenge benefiting The OWL Foundation, which is being held on Saturday at the Naples Bath & Tennis Club, Williams discussed playing doubles against her sister. Venus and Monica Seles will take on Serena and 1998 Wimbledon winner Jana Novotna in a best-of-three-set doubles exhibition that will follow the event's featured singles match between Serena and Seles.
"I almost always play with Serena so it will be interesting to play with Monica," Venus said. "The first thing that I think is that I want to make sure the audience has a really good match. Even when I'm playing professionally, it's entertainment. They (fans) want to come and see a great match; they want to see competitiveness and it's really the same thing, they're coming to see Serena, Monica Seles and Venus and I want to do the best I can."
The OWL Foundation, was founded in 1999 by Oracene Price, mother of Venus Williams and Serena Williams. The OWL Foundation funds programs that address learning problems for students experiencing academic failure. Its stated mission is "to insure that every child is given the opportunity to reach his or her full potential."
Williams said her mother's desire to contribute to charitable causes dates back to before the birth of her famous children.
"My mom has always wanted to help children and to help people and even when she was younger, before any of her kids were here, she wanted to be involved," Venus said. "She wanted to be somewhat of a social worker. Now she has the opportunity to help...and when she calls me (to help), I'm there."
You can be there too. Tickets to this Saturday's even can be purchased by calling TicketMaster at (239) 334-3309. Reserved Seats are $50. Event director Michele Cope said less than 300 reserved seats remain available in the 3,860-seat stadium.
Good Luck: RENA, MATTEK, HAYNES, GULLICKSON, HARKLEROAD, RUBIN, GRANVILLE, LEE-WATERS, SCHNYDER, JACKSON, PERRY, KING, SUGIYAMA, PIERCE, TULYAGANOVA, IVANOVIC, KUZNETSOVA, MOLIK, DANIILIDOU, MEDINA GARRIGUES, PETROVA, PENNETTA, GOLOVIN, PEER, LI, SCHIAVONE, RAZZANO, ZVONAREVA, SPREM, SREBOTNIK, VINCI, & SAFINA