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GogoGirl
Jul 21st, 2002, 05:14 PM
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/archive/2002/07/21/SP66319.DTL




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Bank on the suspense
Stanford tourney shapes up better than Wimbledon

Bruce Jenkins, Chronicle Staff Writer Sunday, July 21, 2002


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This could be better than Wimbledon. Of all the first-class aspects to the upcoming Bank of the West women's tennis tournament at Stanford, that intriguing possibility has to rank near the top.

They won't be playing on grass, or for the high stakes of a major championship, and for those who enjoy the slam-bang violence of a cutting-edge video game, there won't be the ultimate showdown between Venus and Serena Williams. But when the tournament starts Monday, there will be depth and suspense -- two elements strangely missing from this year's Wimbledon.

Venus kind of likes it that way, too.

In the type of scenario that could fit only a pair of world-class sisters, the Grand Slam tournaments are aberrations for the Williamses. What will unfold at Stanford is more their style: one sister in the draw, the other one far, far away. It's remarkable to consider that they have reached the 1-2 world rankings (Serena on top) while doing their best to avoid having to play each other.

"It was kind of a hot issue for a while," said TV analyst Mary Carillo, "because people thought the sisters weren't giving their full commitment to tennis. Like, 'Whaddya mean, they aren't playing the same tournaments?' The fact that they've reached the top, anyway -- while simply dominating the majors -- is pretty remarkable."Wimbledon, one got the funny feeling that the much-publicized depth of the women's tour was fading fast. Injuries removed Lindsay Davenport and Martina Hingis, Jennifer Capriati lost to an out-of-her- mind Amelie Mauresmo, and neither Venus nor Serena got a serious test until their mind-blowing power display on Centre Court for the title.

The story lines almost have to improve this week. Davenport, coming off surgery on her right knee, will be playing her first tour competition since last November. Up-and-coming Belgian stars Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin are a threat to win anywhere. Monica Seles, while forever trying to recapture what she calls the "fearless" tennis of her youth, adds the element of class (and catch her now, Seles fans; she seems increasingly satisfied with the notion of retirement).

Anna Kournikova, while enduring yet another first-round loss, seemed to catch fire through an impressive run in the Wimbledon mixed and women's doubles; she's more "due" for a big splash than any player in recent memory. All that plus Jelena Dokic, Meghann Shaughnessy, Alexandra Stevenson, Chanda Rubin and young Eastern European talents like Tatiana Panova, who recently cracked the world Top 25.

Although Davenport isn't ready to enter the discussion -- and who could blame her, at a time of high vulnerability? -- this week is a launching point, and Venus Williams is the target. Capriati's big rivalry has been with Serena, most recently in their riveting French Open semifinal, but Davenport's personal history is with Venus.seems so long ago, but the WTA tour was once Davenport's domain. She won the 1998 U.S. Open, then the '99 Wimbledon and the '00 Australian, and even without a major title to her credit last year, he fought hard to enough to earn the No. 1 ranking at season's end. Now, some eight months later, she seems almost forgotten. Serena is rising fast, but it was Venus who signaled a changing of the guard by beating Davenport in both the Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals of 2000, along with a semifinal victory over Davenport in last year's Wimbledon. And it's going to be a long road back.

"Venus has just done great the past two years," Davenport said last week. "I think she kind of put her game together. Players go through spurts, and when you're younger, you can make radical improvements in a short time. Venus definitely did that. I remember thinking that, yeah, Capriati is playing great,

but if Venus played well, she was gonna beat Jennifer in a big match, that she was always the favorite. If she doesn't make a lot of errors, which is usually her downfall if she loses, she's impossible to beat. Not just for me, but for everybody."

(Davenport had even more burning issues with Richard Williams, especially after his gaudy public displays of celebration at her expense, and wasn't afraid to publicly criticize him. Richard isn't around much these days, and that suits Lindsay just fine.)

There was a time when Venus showed emotion on the court -- she threw a fit during a match at her first Wimbledon -- and seemed crushed by defeats, especially when Serena brought home the family's first U.S. Open title. These days, it seems nothing can crack her wall of serenity. She seems destined for a higher calling, as if this domination of women's tennis is just a stop along the way. It is difficult to recall many young women athletes so poised and self-assured, and this week Venus enters one of her most cherished comfort zones, having won the Stanford tournament three years in a row from 1998-2000. just really like Stanford," she said before leaving Wimbledon. "Get a little car, enjoy myself, drive around, go to the mall -- I feel calm there."

By championship Sunday, the suspense might have vanished.

E-mail Bruce Jenkins at bjenkins@sfchronicle.com.

GogoGirl
Jul 21st, 2002, 05:17 PM
http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/sports/3706740.htm

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Posted on Sun, Jul. 21, 2002

Williams sisters are co-stars with different shows
By Tim Kawakami
Mercury News Staff Columnist

Separate and unequaled, Venus and Serena Williams would still be incredible stories, rising from the public courts of Compton to win Grand Slam titles and reformulate the way women's tennis is watched and played.

But together and without peer -- other than each other -- they are almost too dominant, too easily viewed as a merged force of nature, VenusandSerena, ruling the world.

VenusandSerena, Nos. 1 and 2 in the world and hitting the ball harder than ever imagined. VenusandSerena, what an epic, unparalleled tale of two sisters.

With Venus, ranked No. 2 after Serena's recent surge, coming to Stanford this week for the Bank of the West Classic, it's time to realize that there are two tales that sometimes conjoin, often don't, and produce tennis at a level few can match.

Venus is 15 months older, three inches taller (at 6-foot-1), lankier, calmer on the court and off, and more likely to gobble up books about Russian history than stew over a missed backhand on break point.

Serena has better footwork and technique, is much more emotional, is more comfortable in the limelight, and, until she broke through at the French Open and Wimbledon this summer, had been more of an enigma.

``A lot of people look at them as one entity, `The Williams Sisters,' '' said ESPN analyst Pam Shriver, Venus' mentor in the tour's Player Development Program. ``But I can see them developing their own separate identities -- their personalities on the court are clearly different, even their strokes, their builds. . . . I've seen a lot of other sisters that look and act a lot more alike than these two.''

VENUS IS OLDER, which explains much about her relationship with Serena and with tennis itself, Shriver said.

Venus, who has won four majors, was the one with the responsibility and pressure to make it huge, and, not shockingly, she's the one who eagerly talks about life away from tennis.

Serena, who now has three majors, was able to watch Venus handle the hubbub of instant fame and the strange byplay between the media and the sisters' shoot-from-the-lip father, Richard Williams.

So as they move into full adulthood (Venus is 22, Serena turns 21 in September), it's only natural that their interests are varying.

If you've been paying attention, Serena is the one who showed up at the ESPYs, chatted up Lennox Lewis at Wimbledon and Jay-Z at the U.S. Open and was rumored to have dated Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington and Cleveland Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia.

Venus has kept a low profile, quietly dating the same man for several years.

``Serena runs the scale of emotions more -- she gets upset, gets more, I think, joyous,'' Shriver said. ``And Serena definitely likes the glitz and glamour of being a star more. . . .

``Venus tends to be more protective, sort of like that older-sister protective mode. . . . She had all the attention early, so perhaps she grew more cautious; and then the second sister can come along and it's easier, it's more fun.''

POTENTIAL CHALLENGERS? Shriver says don't forget Jennifer Capriati, who won the Australian Open this year, and rising stars Kim Clijsters (who won at Stanford last year and is seeded fourth this year), Justine Henin (seeded No. 6 at Stanford this week) and Amelie Mauresmo.

Also, injuries sidelined former No. 1s Lindsay Davenport (making her comeback from knee surgery this week) and Martina Hingis for much of the last year.

Others point to 19-year-old Slovak Daniela Hantuchova, whose looks have been compared to Anna Kournikova but who already has a tour victory.

But for now, the Williams' best and only rivals are each other, which has so far produced several terrible finals, a couple of controversial withdrawals, and finally a decent match a few weeks ago at Wimbledon.

``I can't imagine how difficult it is for those two to play each other,'' said Davenport. ``I have a hard time trying to play my friends, and I'm not nearly as close to my friends as they are as sisters.

``And when you have two power-type of players playing each other, you are not going to have a lot of rallies. They face that dilemma, too.''

NOW THERE'S AN INTRIGUING new dynamic: Serena, in the span of those few weeks in Europe, has vaulted past Venus -- and everybody else.

Not since Steffi Graf in 1996 had a player won the French and Wimbledon back-to-back, and Serena, who won the U.S. Open in 1999, has to be the favorite at her favorite tournament in a few weeks.

Could Serena be poised to make a Graf-like run through the majors? Barring injury, is Venus the only player in the world capable of preventing it?

There's the most certain way to break up the lazy VenusandSerena mindset: Transform it into Venus vs. Serena, the same way it was Chris vs. Martina or McEnroe vs. Borg.

Two giants, jousting for titles and mingling on the great stage, who, this time, happen to be sisters and best friends.

Brian Stewart
Jul 21st, 2002, 05:48 PM
Odd that the first article mentions Chanda, as it was printed today.

jay_k
Jul 21st, 2002, 05:54 PM
"This could be better than Wimbledon. ........there won't be the ultimate showdown between Venus and Serena Williams.........Venus kind of likes it that way, too";)

This pretty much says the story in far fewer words :)

QueenO
Jul 21st, 2002, 06:01 PM
Thanks GogoGirl

TheBoiledEgg
Jul 21st, 2002, 06:19 PM
better i doubt it

they couldn't even fill the qualifying places in the qual draw :rolleyes:

Daniel
Jul 21st, 2002, 07:17 PM
A good tournament :) :)