PDA

View Full Version : Another take on history


Serena y Monica
Jun 7th, 2002, 02:23 PM
FRENCH OPEN
Williams Sisters Reach Paris Final
By SELENA ROBERTS


ARIS, June 6 — Behind the improbable ascent of Venus and Serena Williams from the tennis courts of Compton, Calif., the unlikely architect of their career path has been a gray-bearded father with a hunched back and a vivid imagination who can spin tall tales.

Despite all the hyperbole Richard Williams has ever uttered — like his plan to purchase Rockefeller Center — he has been consistently accurate as a soothsayer.

The moment Venus and Serena began swiping at balls as flat as day-old soda on the ragtag court in their neighborhood, Richard Williams started predicting that one day his daughters would become the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world.

Today, the prophecy was fulfilled when Venus and Serena Williams advanced to the final of the French Open with semifinal victories. It will be the third time that sisters have played in the final of a major — once by Maud and Lilian Watson at Wimbledon in 1884, once by the Williams sisters last year at the United States Open.

Never have sisters been No. 1 and No. 2 in the tour ranking, though. Once the numbers are released by the Women's Tennis Association next week, Venus Williams will be No. 1 and Serena No. 2. Apparently, father knows best.

"He knows our ability," Serena Williams said. "He has worked with us since we were 3 or 4 years old. So, he knows what we're capable of."

Only one person had the power to disrupt sibling destiny on the clay courts of Roland Garros today: Jennifer Capriati. If Capriati, the defending champion, could have summoned the nerve Serena Williams revealed on the critical points, if she could have maintained her unabashed rips at every ball into the third set, she might have prevented her 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2 exit. Venus Williams, meanwhile, beat Clarisa Fernandez, 6-1, 6-4.

A victory by Capriati would have kept Serena Williams from leapfrogging her in the ranking. Instead, Tour officials said that Capriati would fall from No. 2 to No. 3 next week in a 52-week cumulative ranking system that reflects each player's performance in tournament play and record against opponents.

Not long ago, Capriati was No. 1. This tumble at the hands of the Williams sisters has not gone over well with Capriati. Today, she wondered if Williams family collusion was behind Venus and Serena's seizure of the top two spots in the ranking.

Capriati had two theories: first, she contended that Venus and Serena rarely play in the same Tour events so they will not have to face each other, risking a loss of a match and ranking points; second, she said the absence of injured stars like Lindsay Davenport had saved the Williams sisters from potential defeats in earlier rounds.

"It's kind of funny the way it has worked out," Capriati said. "One plays, one doesn't. You would think there is a little more planning behind that. But I mean, if you really want your daughters to be No. 1 and 2, I guess everyone would kind of do it. But mostly, it's just because not everyone is in the game."

Out of jealousy, frustration or dislike, some players have in the past begrudged the success of the Williams sisters. At times, the players have viewed the sisters as guilty by association when their father has made outlandish statements.

But over the last year, Venus and Serena have separated themselves from his image. At 20 and 22, they are young women, with their own opinions and singular lives. As a result, Richard Williams has been less of a carnival barker and more of a wallflower. He is hardly heard from anymore. He did not return calls for comment today. But somewhere in Florida, Williams may have been watching his daughters make history on the last surface anyone expected.

The dominance of Venus and Serena has usually ended at Roland Garros, with neither having advanced past the quarterfinals at the French Open before this week. Clay has been their kryptonite. The torque on their shots has been softened by the dirt, their movement has been impaired by their inability to slide and their strategy has fallen apart with their impatience.

Their faults vanished today. Constructing points with ease, Venus Williams ended Fernandez's serendipitous run in less than an hour. Ranked No. 98, the spindly Fernandez could not keep up with the precision shots Williams was punching into the corners of the court, and went out with little resistance.

Serena Williams had to work much harder. In the first set, Capriati showed the endurance of a telethon host, outlasting Williams during the tension of 20- and 30-shot rallies.

In the fourth game, fighting to hold serve, Capriati endured a 28-stroke rally that including a drop-shot scoop and several scrambles across the baseline before Williams plopped a tired backhand into the net. After the point ended, an exhausted Capriati hung over the net like a sheet on clothesline. The point deflated Williams, who won just one game in the first set after that.

Then it was Capriati's turn to suffer a letdown. In a role reversal, Capriati started losing the long points and coming unglued on her serve.

"It seems like a lot if you make a mistake here or there," Capriati said. "When every point means so much, you can't really afford those mistakes."

Capriati was down by 5-2 before she regrouped. Pumping her fists after big points, going for winners from the courtside flower boxes, Capriati ran off four straight games to go ahead, 6-5. Williams was in a precarious spot. If she could not hold serve, the match was Capriati's.

"I just thought, `I'd better hurry up, I'm running out of time,' " Williams said.

She held serve, forced a tie breaker and then crushed every ball, screaming as she let loose. A fearless Williams overwhelmed a suddenly timid Capriati, who never fully recovered from her lost opportunity.

"I never think of losing, because when you start thinking negative thoughts, negative things happen," Serena Williams said. "I just always think positive, keep fighting."

The battle was won. History was made. Their father knew it all along.

"Topaz"
Jun 7th, 2002, 02:32 PM
Thanks for this article, Serena y Monica.