Hi Williams fans, I´m not normally in here, but thought you might like to see this interesting old article I found:
By Paul Fein (tennisconfidential.com)
THE GHETTO CINDERELLA TAKES CENTRE COURT
Venus, the Roman goddess of love, surpassed all other goddesses in beauty. Tennis goddess Venus surpasses her rivals in mystery.
Inquiring fans forever want to know: What’s up with Venus? Is she going to show up? Will she pull out? Is she healthy? What spectacular outfits will she wear? What juicy quotes will she unleash? Will she pull another astounding match comeback? Will race become an issue? Is she near her sister Serena in the draw? Are their matches fixed? What will Venus’s next victory celebration be like? What’s their wacky father Richard’s next outrageous stunt?
Last year those wonderfully unpredictable Williamses shook up staid, old Wimbledon. From the opening moments when she arrived having played a scant nine matches in preparation to her high-jumping-for-joy championship celebration, Venus seemed to defy conventional wisdom and the laws of gravity.
Charging through the much-tougher top half of the draw, Venus Ebone Starr Williams -- she’s considered changing her name to simply Venus -- performed with the virtuosity of a superstar. She knocked out top-seeded Martina Hingis 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in the quarters, Serena 6-2, 7-6 in the semis, and defending champ Lindsay Davenport 6-3, 7-6 for the Big W title.
“This was meant to be,” she declared after capturing her first and long-awaited Grand Slam crown at age 20. She confided, though, that she often suffered nightmares where she dreamt she was proudly holding a Grand Slam trophy aloft only to wake up distraught that it hadn’t happened.
Determined and confident that she’d become the first African-American woman to win Wimbledon since Althea Gibson in 1958, Venus bought a gown for the Champions’ Ball before she crossed the pond. That unshakeable faith in her prodigious natural talent came from her father who for years told both girls they were destined for greatness. At 14, Venus crowed: “I could go beyond No. 1. With the way I play and my height and aggressiveness and courage and no fear, I could change the game.”
The 6-foot, 1-1/2-inch, 170-pound slugger took over the game during the summer of 2000. Venus reeled off an awesome 32-match winning streak in singles and a 22-match unbeaten stretch in doubles, highlighted by seizing Wimbledon singles and doubles titles, her first U.S. Open singles crown, plus singles and doubles gold medals at the Sydney Olympics.
In their riveting U.S. Open semifinal, Venus rebounded superbly against archrival Hingis, who was two points away from victory leading 5-3 in the third set. This year she again staved off impending defeat -- surviving eight championship points! -- against resurgent Jennifer Capriati to take her third Ericsson Open crown. Pam Shriver, a 21-time Grand Slam doubles winner and highly respected TV tennis analyst, says: “In the last year and a half, Venus developed that intangible, which champions possess, of raising their games when their backs are against the wall. “That Ericsson final was amazing. People will remember that match for a long time,” says Shriver. “It gives Venus even more confidence that she can get out of anything. And that attribute is double-edged because opponents must be uneasy when they try to close her out, knowing she can come up with her best stuff then.”
As defending champion and clearly the most dominant player despite her misleading No. 2 ranking (the WTA’s bogus “Best 17” ranking system doesn’t count the worst six of No. 1 Hingis’s 23 tournaments), Venus rates as the favorite on the slick lawns at the All England Club. The virtual extinction of once-common serve and volleyers who thrive on grass -- like multi-titlists Margaret Court, Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova -- definitely helps Venus’s cause.
Even so, if Venus is to repeat, and the past five years have produced five different Wimbledon queens, she should complement her big first serve and groundstroke power with more forays to net. “Venus is obviously not a straight serve-and-volleyer in the Navratilova-Novotna sense,” says Shriver. “But she can serve and volley.
“With her [huge] reach at net, she covers the net as well as any female who has ever played,” asserts Shriver. “And her instincts at net are getting better. She’s getting more comfortable approaching [net] and serving and volleying. Her potential on grass is better than on any other surface.”
The remaining keys to Venus’s grass-court success, according to Shriver, are cracking consistently solid second serves, attacking opponents’ weak second serves, and moving forward to take floating balls in the air. “If she does that, she can separate herself from most of the other players on grass,” says Shriver.
While some observers count out ‘97 champ Hingis, figuring she’ll continue to be overpowered by much taller, stronger foes, Shriver contends that “anyone who has won it before and is still near the top has a chance.” That includes heavy-hitting, 6’3” Davenport who beat the legendary Steffi Graf in the 1999 final.
Shriver also rates Capriati and Serena Williams as legitimate contenders. “With her big game now, Capriati moves well and comes to net more, and she’s mentally tough,” says Shriver. “Serena certainly has a chance. She’s sort of erratic, though, because she’s not playing enough [tournaments]. To win Wimbledon, you need to have matches under your belt, although last year Venus didn’t.”
Venus breaks the rules in so many ways. But will her multifarious outside interests -- such as fashion school, charity work, and host of endorsement contracts, including her record-setting (for a female athlete) $40 million Reebok deal -- dull or sharpen her enthusiasm for tennis competition?
“If balanced correctly, it will only prolong her career,” maintains Shriver. “In this day and age, you need to have breaks and distractions from tennis. You just can’t be turned on to tennis 24/7. You can also go too far and get interested in other things to the point where it could hurt the tennis. But right now, I see it only helping Venus.”
Whether the same can be said for her father, whose coming book is titled A Method to My Madness, is problematical. When he and Venus entered the Indian Wells stadium to watch Serena and Kim Clijsters play the final a day after Venus’s last-minute withdrawal (she cited a chronic knee injury as the reason) from her semifinal, angry spectators greeted them with a chorus of loud and unrelenting boos. Richard responded by raising a clenched fist, a symbol of black protest, which further inflamed passions.
Later Richard justified his actions by revealing that he heard the racial slur “******!” yelled at him 13 times and was threatened. However, he lost credibility when he preposterously claimed, “It’s the worst act of prejudice I’ve seen since they killed Martin Luther King.”
Those and other provocative comments by Richard ignited a chain reaction of criticism. Hingis, who never misses an opportunity to trade barbs with the Williamses, countered: “I think it’s total nonsense. I don’t feel like there is any racism on the tour.” Navratilova, who has returned to the tour as a part-time doubles player, offered: “He’s creating controversy when there really isn’t any.” And Davenport, often a voice of reason, succinctly said: “He talks and then they have to deal with the consequences.”
Has Richard, whose wife Oracene recently filed for a divorce, become a liability to Venus and Serena?
“Richard has become a distraction, but I don’t think he’s become a liability to his daughters,” says the cautious Shriver, who formerly served as a WTA Tour mentor for Venus. “He’s been only a positive person in their lives. They know how to deal with him better than the public does.”
Shriver does concede, however, that irrepressible Richard -- who can forget the obnoxious “It’s Venus’ Party and no one was invited” Wimby sign he raised last year -- has turned into “a public-relations liability maybe, but that’s not affecting their play. Look at Venus. With everything she was dealing with after that Indian Wells episode, what does she do? She goes out and wins the Ericsson. Off-court, yeah, Richard has said controversial things that have hurt their popularity. But the game is played on court, not in public relations.”
Still, as Hingis found out when she was mercilessly booed during the 1999 French Open final, competing is far more enjoyable when the crowd is rooting for you or at least not en masse against you. “Wimbledon always respects its champions, and I don’t think there will be a noticeable drop-off of Venus’s support,” predicts Shriver, a five-time Wimby doubles champion with Navratilova. “There’s always at Wimbledon, though, strong support for the underdog. So whomever Venus plays will certainly have support.”
If allegations of Williams family match-fixing surface at Wimbledon, the sport’s birthplace and citadel, Venus’s PR
-- popularity rating -- will nosedive, even if they prove false. At Indian Wells, normally uncontroversial Elena Dementieva charged: “I think he [Richard] will decide who’s going to win tomorrow.” That fuelled speculation that Venus’s semifinal default resulted from the Williamses’ aversion to having the two sisters face each other. The media pounced on the story, a repeat of which during the coming fortnight would be a dream for the mischievous British tabloids.
“I didn’t like that quote by Dementieva,” says Shriver. “She doesn’t understand what it is to have another sister pretty close to the top of the rankings within 15 months of her age. They’re best friends, as close as twins. So I don’t think anybody can relate to what they go through in their heads when they’re possibly going to play each other. Obviously, they’re not comfortable with it yet.” If all’s well that ends well, as a famous British bard wrote more than 450 years ago, Wimbledon may end much like last year when Venus’s soaring pirouette-leap left an indelible image of ecstasy and poetry in motion.
“It was very memorable. Venus jumped higher than any champion I’ve seen,” recalls Shriver. “She’s got such long arms and legs, and she was like a cheerleader doing the star jump with her limbs all over Centre Court. All you really picked up, with the backdrop of only that plain grass court with no advertising in the back, was Venus in the white dress and her figure.
“It was a powerful dramatic ending,” continues Shriver. “Through the years, whether it was Borg’s [falling backwards on his knees] celebration or Pat Cash’s climbing into the stands, Wimbledon has given tennis some of the most memorable championship moments of all time. And Venus was certainly at the top of the list.”
Whatever happens this fortnight, Venus and Martina and Anna and the other colorful characters on the stage at Wimbledon lawns are bound to entertain and surprise us.
“Who knows? There’s an air of mystery,” says Shriver. “That’s why people are fascinated with women’s tennis right now. There are a lot of interesting stories that can unfold at any moment. The play is fabulous. The personalities are strong. What’s next? That will keep people tuned in, just wondering.”