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LibraLad
Sep 8th, 2002, 05:28 AM
Hopefully this article hasn't been posted yet. It's long, very long but worth the read.

http://espn.go.com/page2/s/wiley/020906.html

Venus can do whatever she wants
By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist


What is Venus' Secret?

That the older Williams has no "killer instinct"?

You all know "killer instinct." You all know "win-at-all-costs."

In male-dominated sports, win-at-all-costs is our "mother's milk." So ironic. Venus doesn't live by our creed. Does that make her an underachiever, someone you wouldn't want your child to emulate?

Or does it make her better, more mature, more human, deeper than we can imagine? Does it make her our Amazon Mother, showing us a higher plane, a broader horizon, a new way to compete?

Is that Venus' Secret?

We hear, admire, even demand platitudes about "winning" from all our athlete champions all the time. A home run record "doesn't mean anything," says Barry Bonds, because the only thing that matters to him (he says) is winning a World Series. He says it because he believes it, partly, but mostly because that's how he's been trained; he well knows what we want to hear to comfort ourselves and praise him. That's what we will accept from our athletes. Why? Because, we say, it's "unselfish." Emmitt Smith "doesn't care" about breaking the NFL rushing record because the "only thing that matters is another Super Bowl ring, because four of them beats three." Michael Jordan vowed never to lose at anything to anybody, won't speak to you if you beat him ... on and on ...

Then, we have Venus, personification of still water running deep.

So what's more important, winning a third, fifth, seventh U.S. Open, after you've won two, back-to-back, in blowaway fashion? Or is it helping a younger, more vulnerable sister, one you feel responsible for, achieve her own championship potential, and feel good about herself? A champion who'd rather her sibling feel good about herself than win another and another and another title?

Hogwash, we say. Bullcrap. Weak. Soft. All the buzzwords.

Men, women, methinks we doth protest too much.

Venus is subtle in her ministrations. Serena notices. But do we?

Can we understand where Venus is taking us? I thought about this the other day, when Chris McKendry's interview with Serena ran on ESPN. Serena revealed she sneakily registered in a tournament when they were children, got all the way to the finals, where Venus beat her, 2 and 2. She said it with resignation. Then she brightened, having remembered that once Venus gave her a gold trophy for winning first place, telling Serena that she, Venus, liked the silver second-place trophy Serena had won better, so maybe they could switch. If this happens in a movie, we'd all get misty and admire Venus and understand it. And of course the less reflective but more joyous and spontaneous younger sister Serena took the gold trophy and was glad to get it. Venus was glad, too. Glad to see her happy.

That's the kind of familial love we celebrate when we go to the movies or read a story. Why is it so foreign-seeming in sport?

Maybe because it is. Maybe because sports are such a male-ribbed domain, and Venus is more regular -- not necessarily feminine, just regular. In practices, I'm sure Venus eats Serena up. Earlier in the U.S. Open, Serena was talking about practicing against Venus and said in very low tones, "Venus can do whatever she wants to do."

I could visualize the 6-foot Venus running down every shot Serena tried. Not to make her feel bad -- but to make her game better. And, yes, to get ready herself, but it strikes me that Venus has already been fulfilled by her tennis. In the vernacular of the times, Venus, as an athlete, already "did what she had to do." All that's left for her is repetition. Venus strikes me as being bored by reps of that type, especially when there is family -- and when there are new worlds to consider.

Venus Williams is likely the most awesome female tennis player ever to swing a racket, although she will probably never have the kind of statistical validation that we usually associate with such athletic dominance. If you think Martina Navratilova on her best day could beat Venus Williams on her best day, well, it's all just speculation, anyway, isn't it? But maybe there's another kind of validation. Maybe that's part of Venus' Secret, and why when she smiles, she resembles a secretive Mona Lisa instead of somebody trying to get on the cover of "Entertainment Weekly." Maybe there is a validation in helping your little sister grow up and mature. Of course, as men, we wouldn't know anything about that, would we? What human can we create, anyway? Women have that ultimate power, and that ultimate responsibility. Should they learn our way, in order to compete, or should we learn theirs, in order to prosper?

Right now, is there any question where the maturity lies between the Williams sisters? Venus is well-named. She is so regal out there. And competitive, too. Competitive in different ways.

Serena is not necessarily insecure -- you can tell these girls came from love -- but she is a sheltered young woman who needs to be assured of her womanhood. She wants to compete with women, and on all levels, with Venus on the court, with the other women on the court, but also for attention, and yes, apparently for the attention of men. They used to call it "boy crazy," I think, and actually it's the means of a kind of self-validation of being attractive to men. I mean, look at the girl. She's attractive, great smile, great, great body. With a body like, you don't need a cat suit. A cat suit is overkill. And the blonde weave pigtail (not so much the blonde weave tresses, which are actually starting to work, in a Tina Turner kind of way). Particular the blonde weave rope pigtail that can be associated with, say, Anna Kournikova.

Serena wants to be noticed for more than just her tennis. There's nothing particularly wrong with that girlish sort of feeling. It's life. There are many ways of competing, which, after all, is another way of vying for attention, another way to get all eyes on you. Venus merely goes about her business, quietly, without any need for a sort of va-va-voom validation. Venus takes care of her personal business on the QT. I'm not going to talk out of school about her, but she seems pretty content, pretty happy, and she doesn't showboat her relationships, of any kind.

Still, Venus will never sell her sister out, or short, or backbite her on choices. Asked if she would ever wear a "cat suit" (a question intended to undermine Serena's choices), Venus would not bite, saying, she probably would, but "she doesn't do anything second."

The first thing she does is always look out for Serena.

Serena won the U.S. Open first, the first major won by the sisters, in 1999. Since then, she's won Wimbledon this year, over Venus.

Venus had won Wimbledon the prior two years, and the U.S. Open the prior two years. She had established her dominance to her own satisfaction, and even then could not fully enjoy it, in particular last year's U.S. Open, because she was worried about how Serena would take losing to her in the finals, again, just as she had been doing all their lives, basically. Venus seemed much more reflective and caring of her sister's feelings than particularly celebratory.

Is she less of a champion for that? Or more? That's her secret.

***** ***** *****



Is it possible that some people, particularly among women athletes past and future, like Venus, compete on an entirely different level, which is to, say wider, deeper, in more of a team (family) concept?

They not only win, they make sure their whole family wins. Is that less admirable, or is it more admirable to constantly kick your baby sister's ass, just because you can, in front of throngs of thousands, on national TV, then talk smack to her about it, rub it in? We say Little Leaguers shouldn't celebrate, in our mind "show up" other Little Leaguers they don't even know, but then we complain that Venus Williams has no "killer instinct" for her own blood. Don't know who says we can't have it both ways; we do it all the time.

Women such as Venus might not adhere to our unspoken, inflexible code of winning, but they are just as inclined to determine an outcome, only in a different way. Not to say they are not as cold-blooded. Women are plenty cold-blooded when they want to be, just cold-blooded in a different way.

Chris Rock tells the story of how both men and women lie, but men lie small, petty, less big-picture, and more often, all the time, really. Chris Rock said a man might say, "Uh, I'm going over to Tommy's house," not knowing the woman already knows he's lying because he does it all the time. But a woman might say, "It's your baby." And you really never know. Not until it's too late.

Could be that Venus Williams is a stone-cold killer. But not of her baby sister. Just in her own way. John McEnroe babbles on about how he could beat the Williams sisters (Mac is delusional here -- you're closing in on 50, Mac, and Venus would run you into the ground; it wouldn't be a question of you winning -- it would be a question of you having a heart attack or a stroke -- and I mean in any competition with Venus), or how the top 100 or 200 men could beat Venus, yada-yada, not knowing that he is validating her by even making the stiff comparison.

Would an NBA player say he could beat a WNBA player? If he did, then that's the beginning of a new kind of competition, yes? He is acknowledging that she is a competitor with him. In point of fact, Venus can serve at around 120 mph, and with her elongated, supple body and great racket and volleying skills, she can stretch and get back would-be-winners with ease. Why can 100 men beat her? Because they are men? Because Johnny Mac, entertaining or not, thinks it's so?

The only way Johnny Mac could beat Venus Williams is if, for some reason, she felt sorry for him, and did not want to embarrass him, or did not want the attention, or any one of a dozen reasons that might be part of Venus' Secret. But I'll say this -- if, for some reason, Johnny Mac hurt Serena badly, and then played Venus, he'd get his ass kicked. Royally. It's all based on what motivates you. Or, more to the point, her. There have been women who have lifted up the front ends of cars to rescue their children who were pinned under the wheels. And you mean to say Venus Williams, properly motivated, can't return James Blake's serve? Please.

But Venus would rather see Serena return that serve successfully. That would make her happier than returning serve herself. Forget tennis. This is Richard and Oracene Williams' crowning glory, that they induced such love in their girls. That's their secret.

I believe Venus' skills are so strong, so sublime, so ethereal, she's limited only by what Venus wants to do, is compelled to do, is driven to do. Driven by killer instinct? Or, is she a new kind of athlete, an evolutionary step, perhaps, a champion woman athlete of ground-breaking, game-evolving abilities who is also something new to sports on another front -- a nurturing champion?

I also believe she'll win a third straight U.S. Open this weekend.

And that a lot of people will watch.

***** ***** *****



Women's tennis right now is more compelling than men's, on different levels. Paradigms shift in sport -- like other paradigms, they often shift glacially. People are comfortable with the old ways. Their comfort blinds their vision. But one can say with confidence, like the old philosophy professors in college always did, that most human progress is based on subverting these paradigms. Right now, for all of Johnny Mac's protestations, all of Pete Sampras' catty put-downs of Serena's blonde weave, all of Lleyton Hewitt's abilities, women's tennis is more compelling.

There are four levels of women's tennis now. There are Venus and Serena, raising the bar, bringing both power and movement to the game. You can't fool the eye. The human eye is always drawn to excellence, speed, skill, at a world-class, or even unprecedented level. The sisters make it more of a spectator's feast, and force some players whose game simply can't match theirs, if not out of it, then to a backstaging area, inspiring others to play the game their way and come to the front.

This is Level One tennis now.

Level Two tennis is occupied by Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati, even though Capriati lost in the Open quarters. They hit hard enough, and are determined enough, and part of the charm of women's tennis is to see if they can raise their games -- that is to say, their lateral movement and explosive passes -- enough to beat the Williams sisters in a Grand Slam event. Some watch with the fervent hope that Davvy and Jen can make that quantum leap even for a week; they are compelled to watch for signs it can happen.

Level Three is occupied by Monica Seles and Martina Hingis, former multiple Grand Slam champions of major historical significance in the women's game. It is always interesting when one of them makes a Grand Slam semifinal, as Seles did at this year's Open. They bring in the nostalgic viewer, hoping a tactical miracle might occur, like when Arthur Ashe beat Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon in 1975. Skill-wise, Seles and Hingis are joined by Henin, Dokic. Semifinalist-finalist is about as far as they can go in a Slam event.

The Level Four players, the Bovinas, Hantuchovas, Mauresmos, the best of the juniors, must beat the Level Three and Two players to get to the top, to get to the big leagues of the Williams sisters, as Amelie Mauresmo did by beating Capriati, though not on Jen's best day.

Throughout all the competition, there are snarling, inexplicable, catty displays of anger, ego, attitude -- and this is among the men.

Women are not immune to this display. Everything's there to make women's tennis almost as interesting to some as "Sex In The City."

Throughout all the tennis, competition and the startlingly fast evolution of women's tennis, the preternatural calm of Venus remains undisturbed.

"Venus can do whatever she wants," Serena said, of practicing, hitting with her older sister. Somebody should tape their practices, if we want to see "killer instinct." Venus will play at her top level to make Serena better, but will find it harder to do that just to beat her for a silver plate or a trophy. She already has plenty of those. They just sit there on a mantle collecting dust. But her little sister Serena is alive, and growing up, and needs care. And from that care, the game of tennis will evolve faster, higher, further ...

Venus' Secret is that she is, perhaps, the first nurturing champion.

She is the Mother of the Game. The great champion who will make sure that the ones who follow her have a chance to be even greater.

If this was "Dune," Venus would be Reverend Mother of them all.

Some, men and women, will claim not to understand my math.

Some, men and women, won't like it much, even if they do.

Some, men and women, the lucky ones, raised by good mothers, will say winning is the only thing that matters to a true champion.

Venus will smile a calm, knowing smile of a Reverend Mother, of the Mona Lisa, of a good mother herding all her children under her wing, leading them to water, and the future, while saying, "Yes, dear, I'm sure, you're probably right ... keep going ... I love you."

That, to me, is Venus' Secret. And I've got to love her for it.

Tennis Fool
Sep 8th, 2002, 05:33 AM
Is that less admirable, or is it more admirable to constantly kick your baby sister's ass, just because you can, in front of throngs of thousands, on national TV, then talk smack to her about it, rub it in?
=============================================
Serena seems to have no problem with that!

GogoGirl
Sep 8th, 2002, 03:20 PM
I do declare! I can’t believe I missed this great article. What a beaut. Thanks LibraLad. btw - Serena & Martina are Libras and they are the last two players to win three slams in one year.

I cried when I read this article – because I feel it in my bones that what was written was right on the mark. I needed this read this morning. I felt disappointed for a minute about Venus losing – but right away – I was all smiles for Serena’ win.

Venus is tired of all the double standards that have been going on all around her for years. IMO some of it is because of the fact that she is the mothering type – and does not want the BS to touch her Sister. Venus has four slams – and more money than she can ever spend. And maybe she realizes that she does not want to continue her tennis career much longer.

I mentioned this recently – that Venus will not be around much longer. I even stated that I would be glad when she hung it up – for I was tired of all the crapola she and her sister have to put up with. Some of the media pundits – haters – detractors should be happy that they might get their wish sooner than later. If they are trying to run Venus out of the game – IMO – they are succeeding. Last year – I felt that the fat lady was starting her song – and after this tourney – I see that I was on the right track.

Venus is tired of all the hate and the BS. We truly have no idea what she goes thru. We have no idea how irritated she can get w/all the hype and media buzz she has to be subjected to. The ridiculous and asinine questions and comments she has to put up with are wearing her down – as she herself mentioned in her post-match interview. Winning titles and trophies don’t float her boat like they did before.

Venus can beat most of the players on the tour – and that fact alone – is not driving her to her full gratification. Money and fame are not driving her to gratification – and from the way she sounds now – even the satisfaction of competing and winning is not doing it for her any longer. Her little sister, Serena, and how well she performs - is what sustains Venus in her effort to perform in her chosen sports profession these days. IMO – the main reason Venus will play another year or two – if she decides to – will be because she won’t want to leave her sister alone on the tour to fight all the battles – each of them have had to fight – all of these years. And some of those battles are fought off the court.

Deep down inside Venus - the desire to continue in tennis is not a strong one for her now. She’s been there and done that. She conquers practically everyone she plays – so in her mind – what is there left to do and achieve? In her mind – she has won enough of the accolades – prize money and trophies – and now may be the time for her to think about whatever else she has a passion for and about how she will go about achieving her goals.

Richard Williams is a modern day prophet – for he saw this coming. He has stated before that he didn’t think Venus would wish to hang around long – and I for one – always saw where he was coming from and agreed w/him. There is tooooooo much out there in the real world that will capture Venus’ drive to succeed in. Tennis is losing its luster for her.

Venus just does not have the killer instinct to take it to her sister. She wants what’s best for Serena in every way. She would sacrifice everything just to insure her sister reached her full potential. Deep down inside – IMO Venus knows she can come back on Serena and take her in the future. She is more complex than Serena, and she has conflicting feelings when it comes to playing Serena. Point blank!

At last year’s US O Venus didn’t have but 6 or so winners – and she still won. She played a solid match – and did not play all out by going for her shots. She played steady, and just tried to keep the ball in play. Serena made sooooooo many errors and Venus made few. Venus more than anyone – other than her parents – knows how far Serena has come.

Deep down – she is very proud of her Sister – because she can see the difference in Serena’s game. She can see how much Serena has improved since USO 2001. And IMO – in this - is her shining glory and gratification. In this is what makes her proud. In this is why she can try to ease on down the road. She knows in her heart – she has helped her sister reach her potential. And in that – is why she may try to leave the sport sooner than later – because she knows that her little/baby sister is a woman now – on and off the court.

The author also insinuated that Venus might be in a romantic relationship that she yearns to hold onto. We shall see about that.

And God gets all the praise – and the parents the credit.

“CONGRATULATIONS SISTERS WILLIAMS”




http://espn.go.com/tennis/usopen02/s/2002/0907/1428828.html


Sunday, September 8
Serena shows she's the better sister
By Pam Shriver
Special to ESPN.com


NEW YORK -- Once and for all, everybody realizes that for the foreseeable future Serena Williams is better than her sister Venus by a pretty good margin.

Pam's Picks

Shriver
Former WTA Tour pro Pam Shriver is providing ESPN.com with in-depth analysis throughout the U.S. Open. Shriver, a tennis analyst for ESPN, was ranked as high as No. 3 in singles play. She won 21 singles and 112 doubles titles, including 22 Grand Slam titles.


It's almost like Serena has distanced herself from Venus in an even bigger way. Serena is in rarified air with three Grand Slam titles in a row.

I kind of wonder if she thinks about running for the drop shot in Sydney earlier this year when she sprained her ankle playing Amelie Mauresmo. If she'll look back and wonder what would have happened if she had played the Australian Open. To go undefeated in a season in the majors is extraordinary.

Venus, though, has to sit down and figure out what she needs to do to win again. Her serve is not holding up as well when it's on the line. She needs to figure out how to get the mechanics a little better, particularly on the second serve. Everything else is reasonably close to Serena, but there's a gap on the serve.

The one shot that clearly separates Serena from Venus is the serve. Serena is the best server I've seen since Steffi Graf was serving her best. Serena's second serve is strong, and sometimes it's almost as important as the first. She seems to be happy serving to all the corners; she doesn't have a favorite. It's a fantastic motion that stands up well under pressure.

Serena said on ESPN at the year-end championships in Munich last season that she wanted to be the No. 1 player in 2002. She has systematically gone about it in a most consistent way. Mentally and physically, she's become this comprehensive package that every talented player looks to be but can't quite achieve. Very rarely can you put it all together.

Now the question comes in, can she keep it going more than a year? That will be one of the big questions going into 2003. Can she physically maintain this kind of play? She's had quite a few injuries. Does she have the desire? She has a lot of interests with design and acting.

Serena enjoys everything that comes from the spotlight more than Venus. Venus keeps more to herself and doesn't want the outside world interfering in her game; Serena is more, "Yeah, bring it on." Over time that can drain you, so we'll see how she holds up.

Three majors in a year -- that's pretty impressive -- we'll see if she can head into really rarified air, like Monica Seles' nine Grand Slams. Usually in women's tennis when one woman clicks in, it's for more than one or two years, so it's Serena's chance to see if she can dominate over time.

And Venus has got to do some pretty severe soul searching to figure out what's gone wrong. Serena is improving, why is Venus not improving in these matchups? Venus said she thinks she shouldn't lose to anyone four times in a row. Serena has been playing better, but there's a bit of an edge psychologically, as well. Venus has got to figure this out between the time of the U.S. Open and the start of next year. Venus should come to the net more -- one of the great points of the final was her backhand volley save on match point -- she's got to get her serve shored up and needs to figure out how to get on top of everybody in her head. She's lost the edge as far as her sister is concerned.


Pam - Venus does not have a strong desire to have an edge against her younger sister.

GogoGirl
Sep 8th, 2002, 07:27 PM
http://www.suntimes.com/output/couch/cst-spt-couch08.html



Tennis won't drive wedge between Serena, Venus

September 8, 2002

BY GREG COUCH SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST




NEW YORK--When you look at the Williams sisters, how many people do you see? They are not the No.1 player in the world.

They are No. 1 and No. 2.

But we have blurred their differences. How do you beat the Williams sisters? The Williams sisters are too strong. The Williams sisters are great for the game.

It is as if they are one player, first name Williams, last name Sisters , with one style, one personality. But there are two of them with two sets of feelings and needs. And Saturday night, Venus Williams needed to win the U.S. Open more than Serena Williams did. But for the third major championship final in a row, Serena beat Venus. This time, it was 6-4, 6-3.

What happens to Venus now?

This tournament did less to show the dominance of Williams Sisters, the entity, than it did to confirm a problem with Venus, the person. She has fallen behind her little sister. Suddenly, she is the vulnerable part, the Williams Sisters' sprained ankle.

''I've played a lot for me,'' Venus said. ''I gave extra effort to play more this year and fulfill my obligations to the tour. But that's been difficult. I mean, I play tennis, but it shouldn't mean my whole life should be tennis.''

This is what Serena said: ''Tennis is really all I have right now. I'm really focused.''

So Venus' trouble is on the court, but not just there. She is tied up and twisted around in sibling dynamics.

Someone asked her if she was upset about not having won a major this year.

''Not upset,'' she said. ''I've tried and I just wasn't able to really step it up when it really counted.''

After advancing to the final Friday, she said she cared only about winning this title. But then she said she hoped her opponent would be Serena because, ''I want her to do her personal best.''

Why isn't she upset about not winning? And remember which player has been beating her. Serena. And why would Venus clutter her goal of winning the Open with concerns about seeing Serena do her best?

It is because Venus is a good person, a loving sister. But that's her problem too: She doesn't have the killer inside when it comes to Serena. Maybe there is too much love.

''Too much love?'' Venus asked.

Richard Williams raised his daughters to be in this thing together. He doesn't like watching them play each other because his vision can't comprehend that. Sometimes, I wonder if he sees them as one, also. Maybe even Venus can't totally separate herself, living off different hearts, but the same soul.

On Friday, the Daily News in New York had a box on the front page that read: ''Serena Stalker To Be Deported.'' Inside on a society page, beneath pictures of Naomi Campbell and Melanie Griffith and across from one of Danny Pintauro, the boy from the old TV show ''Who's the Boss'' who apparently likes to dress in drag these days, there was a shot of Serena on the town in a sexy, low-cut outfit.

Take the No. 7 subway to the tournament, and a red brick building near the 52nd Street exit is covered with a poster of Serena. Walk past any newstand in New York, and there's Serena on the cover of Ebony, voluptuous in a red dress. And don't forget all the talk about that skin-tight cat suit she played in most of the tournament.

As a girl, it was Venus hyped as the future of tennis. And think of their childhood. Venus, 22, grew up as the older sister by 15 months. Older sisters tend to watch out for their younger ones, care for them, and yes, dominate them.

Now, the younger sibling has taken over.

''Oh no, not at all,'' Serena said. ''Venus is definitely right there, a little bit ahead of me. I'm always trying to catch up.''

But you're the one who keeps winning. What makes you feel you're behind?

''That's what I keep telling myself,'' she said, smiling, ''so that I can have a goal.''

We know this has mattered before. Venus was on tour first, but Serena won the first major, 1999 Open. And that, Serena has acknowledged, bothered Venus.

Jealousy? Sure. A wedge? Doubtful. Just a hunch, but Venus will never begrudge Serena. That's the conflict.

Venus jumped ahead of Serena, winning Wimbledon and the Open in 2000 and 2001. But Serena, saying she was playing for little sisters everywhere, then went for Venus' throat.

Maybe Venus should move away from Serena, become her own person. They live together, you know. But what charm there is in two loving sisters staying close.

''We're family first, and that's what matters most,'' Serena said. ''Our love goes deeper than the tennis game.''

That's either the beauty or the whole trouble, really.

You choose.