Last January Venus Williams lost her fourth straight Grand Slam final to her younger sister, Serena. Since then Venus hasn't been the same player, according to Bud Collins of NBCSports.com.
Struggling Venus must get meaner
Losses to sister Serena have taken their toll on her game
PARIS, May 31 ó Venus Williams is clearly in limbo. The once great and intimidating two-time Wimbledon and two-time U.S. Open champion looks completely disinterested in her tennis here at the French Open.
NOT THE VENUS OF OLD
In her second round match at Roland Garros, the third-seeded Williams took more than an hour and a half to find her range and put down a spirited challenge by journeywoman Evie Dominikovic 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. But against the Australian, Venus committed a whopping 68 unforced errors, lost her serve five times and took nearly two hours to move on.
I asked Venus after the win whether she was invested in the match at all ó because for most of the contest, she really looked liked she wasnít. She said she was, but had she been up against a more skilled competitor, I feel she might very well have been sent reeling out of the tournament and back home from Paris.
Williams played better in the third round.
She hit six aces and beat No. 26 Silvia Farina Elia 6-1, 6-2 in 52 minutes.
NO RECOVERY FROM DOWN UNDER
Venus wasnít moving her feet on her groundstrokes and excused herself by saying that because sheís so tall, it can be difficult for her to set up. But on many occasions, getting to the ball on time is all about effort.
Since she lost her fourth straight Grand Slam final to her little sister, Serena, in Australia back in January, Venus has been a phantom on tour, winning only one title.
Her three-set loss to her sister Down Under has clearly devastated her.
In the last game of that match, she looked so unsure of herself that it appeared that her right arm might fall off because it was shaking so mightily when she went up to serve.
The woman who could once scorch a heater at crunch time, the woman who dared her foes to hit wide to her backhand so she could launch a blistering reply down the line had gone up in smoke in Australia and was merely a ball of nerves.
That Venus Williams ó the one who had stood above all others in the womenís game, even her little sister ó disappeared in the Melbourne humidity and she really hasnít been seen since.
VENUS BECOMES VULNERABLE
I think Venus is a little depressed because she isnít sure whether she can ever leapfrog Serena.
As a result, her level of play has dropped to a point where she is very vulnerable to a number of players, including Jennifer Capriati, should the two meet up in the quarterfinals.
Venus once had the best serve in the world and now she holds back on both her first and second serves.
There is no fear factor when her opponents face her any more.
Even Dominikovic said that she was glad to face Venus rather than Serena.
Thatís got to hurt.
FINDING WHATíS MISSING
Venus needs a large dose of confidence and the only way sheís going to get it is to get hungry again.
When she was asked after the Dominikovic match whether she was still ravenous to win titles and willing to put in the work, she said she was ó but she didnít say it with a lot of conviction.
Like Serena did when they played each other in Australia, Venus has to show some emotion and tell herself, Serena, and the world that she still cares about competing and winning.
I recall that at one point in the first set of their Aussie Open final Serena was so frustrated with her sisterís strong defense that she actually threw her racket toward her chair in anger.
She went on to win the match.
The next time Venus starts spraying forehands, she should at least bounce the large gold circle earrings sheís wearing across the court and over the net.
By not showing enough emotion in Australia, Venus conceded the mental high ground against the battle-loving Serena.
Thatís been the case the last year and half between the two and the older sister needs to get meaner if she is going to rise to the top of the pack again.
Venus has a beautiful smile that the world loves to see, but on court, she needs to flash her fangs a little more.
As Venus herself said after moving on to the third round at Paris, Ē I canít stay at this level and still continue to do as well as Iíd like to at this tournament.
ďIíve got to find my balance and find it, soon.Ē