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Aug 5th, 2002, 03:30 PM
One Williams too many for most competition


CARLSBAD – The trouble with women's tennis is that there aren't enough Williams sisters to keep it interesting.

Venus and Serena may be the scariest siblings since Frank and Jesse James, but too often they are in opposite orbits. They meet in the Grand Slam tournaments, and in their hometown tournament in Miami, but they otherwise maintain a disappointing distance.

Any tournament with both Williams sisters is awash in anticipation. Any tournament with only one is inherently incomplete and, of late, anticlimactic.

Venus Williams won her third straight Acura Classic title yesterday, whipping the weary Jelena Dokic 6-2, 6-2 in 55 masterful minutes. Yet the absence of Serena from the main draw acted as an invisible asterisk. Like a golf tournament without Tiger Woods or a bicycle race without Lance Armstrong, any tennis tournament with only one Williams can only be considered a qualified success.

Between them, the two sisters have come to dominate the game, but they have each reached the exalted plateau where they can only be defined as individuals through their sibling rivalry. Not since the Old Testament – or at least "The Brady Bunch" – has a family feud carried such profound cultural implications.

"They are beatable at times," Dokic said yesterday. "(But) not a lot of times. How long they can keep it going, that's a different story."

Perhaps the greatest challenge to Venus and Serena Williams is a lack of challenge. Between them, they own the last three U.S. Open titles and the last three Wimbledon titles, and Serena is the reigning French Open champion. Venus, 22, has won 50 of her 56 matches this year, and hasn't lost to anyone except her younger sister since April. Serena is 36-3, and won't observe her 21st birthday until after the U.S. Open.

Lack of parity has long been a problem on the women's tour. Thirty times since 1969, a player has won at least 50 matches in a year while losing less than 10 percent of the time. Martina Navratilova was 86-1 in 1983, then "slipped" to 78-2 the following year.

The Williams sisters are winning so often, and with such apparent ease, that motivation may eventually become an issue. Since Wimbledon, Venus Williams has lost one set in nine matches. If she's something less than she was two years ago, as she maintains, the difference has been indiscernible unless Serena is on the other side of the net.

"I think I've played better in other years," Venus Williams said yesterday. "(Before) I was kind of like a desperate player who was on the ropes."

It's hard to think of yourself as desperate when you debate taking possession of a free car because of the additional insurance premiums. It's easy, therefore, to think of Venus Williams as content. She has won nearly $11 million on tour – more than Chris Evert made in her entire career – and the few worlds she has left to conquer are either already within her grasp or beyond her goals.

Yesterday's victory was her 27th career singles title, and the number is sufficiently high that she's started to keep count. Yet when asked about Navratilova's record of 167 tournament victories, Venus Williams says she's not likely to stick around long enough to challenge it.

"Sometimes I wonder if I had started at 14 if I would have won more titles," Venus Williams said, "or would I be tired of tennis?"

Herein lies the best hope for the rank-and-file of female tennis: Eventually, maybe Venus and Serena get bored.

"Some of us in the top 10 can get close to them," Dokic said yesterday. "Physically, I have to get stronger. (But) Tennis-wise, I don't think I'm too far away."

Physically, the gap is the Grand Canyon. It had to be demoralizing for Dokic when Williams was able to retrieve some of her most exquisite shots with her long strides and extraordinary quickness. It had to be disheartening for Dokic when Williams was able to summon a 111-mph ace to hold serve in the fourth game of the second set.

It has to be difficult for anyone to beat the Williams sisters. Except another Williams sister.

Aug 5th, 2002, 03:32 PM
There's No Lull in Venus' World
By LISA DILLMAN, Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times

CARLSBAD -- For those who looked at Venus Williams' sad face and glistening eyes after she lost for the first time in three years at Wimbledon, wondering about her immediate future after a devastating loss to her younger sister Serena, those concerns have been rendered moot by back-to-back titles in California.

This was not like 1999 all over again.

After Venus watched Serena win the 1999 U.S. Open she went into an emotional and physical tailspin, missing the first four months of 2000 with tendinitis in both wrists. But four Grand Slam singles titles have a way of improving someone's recuperative powers and self-belief.

After losing to Serena in a well-played final at Wimbledon, Venus has responded by losing only one set in two hard-court tournaments. That included a 6-2, 6-2 victory in 55 minutes over a weakened Jelena Dokic of Yugoslavia in the Acura Classic final Sunday at La Costa Resort and Spa. For the top-seeded Williams, it was her third consecutive championship here, a first at this tournament.

She was loose on the court, losing serve only once, hitting six aces, 23 winners and, more important, committing only 24 unforced errors. A bit of summertime cleaning took care of the latter annoying problem, reducing an unacceptable 73 unforced errors against Kim Clijsters in a three-set quarterfinalto a more acceptable number.

Having taken care of those matters, Williams turned her attention to the mundane during the trophy presentation, going on an amusing riff about cutting down on her speeding tickets and her conversation with a Samsung vice president earlier in the tournament. She has been talking here about having no remote control for her TV, meaning the channel stays on Lifetime Network, all day and all night.

"He promised to update me," she said, and apparently the "update" may be something in the form of a flat-screen TV.

She was enjoying talking about all her new gifts but seemed coy about a shiny new ring on her left hand, talking with reporters in the hallway on Saturday night.

"I'm too young to be engaged," said the 22-year-old. "Not this girl."

The way things are going for her opponents, the distraction of a Williams' engagement or marriage might be their only chance. Williams has won six titles in 2002 and three of her six losses this year have been to Serena. The others were to Monica Seles at the Australian Open, Sandrine Testud (who has now retired) at Dubai and Clijsters at Hamburg in May.

If anything, Venus seems increasingly engaged.

"I'm always counting the numbers now for titles," she said. "This was 27.... I really got interested this year because it started to be a [bigger] number than it used to be. I'm never going to get close to [Martina] Navratilova. I don't know if I can make it that far because I'm not sure I can play as long as she did."

The Venus-Serena Era is becoming a lot like the days of Navratilova-Chris Evert. They may be pushing one another, continually raising the bar, but the gap between the top two and the rest of the field is widening.

Davenport, 26, a former No. 1, took only three games from Venus in the semifinals and was losing consistently to both sisters even before her knee injury.

Of the younger challengers, there is Clijsters. And anyone with Dokic's groundstrokes and attitude should be taken seriously. At La Costa, the 19-year-old, seeded sixth, made a breakthrough by beating Jennifer Capriati for the first time and was pleasantly surprised by reaching the final, acknowledging the support of her boyfriend, Formula One driver Enrique Bernoldi of Brazil.

She said she was weakened by a stomach virus in her semifinal against Anna Kournikova--in which she saved two match points--and needed the attention of a doctor before Sunday's final. Still, the culprit may be too much tennis and suspect scheduling. Dokic is supposed to play this week at Manhattan Beach, followed by Montreal and New Haven, Conn., which would be five consecutive weeks of tournaments.

"I've beaten some very good players this week," Dokic said. "It was a little disappointing today. Considering how I was feeling, I don't think I could have done very much today."


Winners of the WTA tournament in the San Diego area, currently the Acura Classic:

2002 ...Venus Williams

2001 ...Venus Williams

2000 ...Venus Williams

1999 ...Martina Hingis

1998 ...Lindsay Davenport

1997 ...Martina Hingis

1996 ...Kimiko Date

1995 ...Conchita Martinez

1994 ...Steffi Graf

1993 ...Steffi Graf

1992 ...Jennifer Capriati

1991 ...Jennifer Capriati

1990 ...Steffi Graf

1989 ...Steffi Graf

1988 ...Stephanie Rehe

1987 ...Rafaella Reggi

1986 ...Melissa Gurney

1985 ...Annabelle Croft

1984... Debbie Spence

Aug 5th, 2002, 03:36 PM
One Williams too many for most competition

CARLSBAD – The trouble with women's tennis is that there aren't enough Williams sisters to keep it interesting.

Venus and Serena may be the scariest siblings since Frank and Jesse James, but too often they are in opposite orbits. They meet in the Grand Slam tournaments, and in their hometown tournament in Miami, but they otherwise maintain a disappointing distance.

Any tournament with both Williams sisters is awash in anticipation. Any tournament with only one is inherently incomplete and, of late, anticlimactic.

Venus Williams won her third straight Acura Classic title yesterday, whipping the weary Jelena Dokic 6-2, 6-2 in 55 masterful minutes. Yet the absence of Serena from the main draw acted as an invisible asterisk. Like a golf tournament without Tiger Woods or a bicycle race without Lance Armstrong, any tennis tournament with only one Williams can only be considered a qualified success.

Between them, the two sisters have come to dominate the game, but they have each reached the exalted plateau where they can only be defined as individuals through their sibling rivalry. Not since the Old Testament – or at least "The Brady Bunch" – has a family feud carried such profound cultural implications.

"They are beatable at times," Dokic said yesterday. "(But) not a lot of times. How long they can keep it going, that's a different story."

Perhaps the greatest challenge to Venus and Serena Williams is a lack of challenge. Between them, they own the last three U.S. Open titles and the last three Wimbledon titles, and Serena is the reigning French Open champion. Venus, 22, has won 50 of her 56 matches this year, and hasn't lost to anyone except her younger sister since April. Serena is 36-3, and won't observe her 21st birthday until after the U.S. Open.

Lack of parity has long been a problem on the women's tour. Thirty times since 1969, a player has won at least 50 matches in a year while losing less than 10 percent of the time. Martina Navratilova was 86-1 in 1983, then "slipped" to 78-2 the following year.

The Williams sisters are winning so often, and with such apparent ease, that motivation may eventually become an issue. Since Wimbledon, Venus Williams has lost one set in nine matches. If she's something less than she was two years ago, as she maintains, the difference has been indiscernible unless Serena is on the other side of the net.

"I think I've played better in other years," Venus Williams said yesterday. "(Before) I was kind of like a desperate player who was on the ropes."

It's hard to think of yourself as desperate when you debate taking possession of a free car because of the additional insurance premiums. It's easy, therefore, to think of Venus Williams as content. She has won nearly $11 million on tour – more than Chris Evert made in her entire career – and the few worlds she has left to conquer are either already within her grasp or beyond her goals.

Yesterday's victory was her 27th career singles title, and the number is sufficiently high that she's started to keep count. Yet when asked about Navratilova's record of 167 tournament victories, Venus Williams says she's not likely to stick around long enough to challenge it.

"Sometimes I wonder if I had started at 14 if I would have won more titles," Venus Williams said, "or would I be tired of tennis?"

Herein lies the best hope for the rank-and-file of female tennis: Eventually, maybe Venus and Serena get bored.

"Some of us in the top 10 can get close to them," Dokic said yesterday. "Physically, I have to get stronger. (But) Tennis-wise, I don't think I'm too far away."

Physically, the gap is the Grand Canyon. It had to be demoralizing for Dokic when Williams was able to retrieve some of her most exquisite shots with her long strides and extraordinary quickness. It had to be disheartening for Dokic when Williams was able to summon a 111-mph ace to hold serve in the fourth game of the second set.

It has to be difficult for anyone to beat the Williams sisters. Except another Williams sister.

Aug 5th, 2002, 03:39 PM
Venus Williams wins Acura Classic

8/4/02 11:50 PM

CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) _ Venus Williams was simply overwhelming _ again.

Relying on her power game and court coverage, the top-seeded Williams won her third consecutive Acura Classic on Sunday, defeating sixth-seeded Jelena Dokic of Yugoslavia 6-2, 6-2 in the tournament final at La Costa Resort and Spa.

Williams has now won 27 WTA tournaments in her career. She is the only player to win the tournament three times in a row in its 19-year history.

``It is really nice to keep coming back to a tour that is so familiar and where winning is so familiar,'' Williams said. ``I just had a great day.''

In her semifinal Saturday, Williams dispatched third-seeded Lindsay Davenport 6-2, 6-1, and she showed no signs of letting up Sunday as she defeated Dokic in a tidy 55 minutes. Dokic had a 2-1 lead in the first set before Williams rattled off five games in a row to win the set.

Dokic held her serve to win the first game of the second set, but Williams came back to win four consecutive games to take a 4-1 lead and cruise to the win, her sixth singles title this year.

Williams won $115,000 and a car. Dokic won $60,000. Williams is now 3-1 in her career against Dokic.

In the doubles final, fourth seeded Elena Dementieva of Russia and Janette Husarova of Slovokia defeated third-seeded Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia and Ai Sugiyama of Japan 6-2, 6-4.

Dokic, who consulted a physician before the match, played with what she said was a stomach virus, which she said weakened her before and during the match.

``Just generally, physically, I wasn't feeling well. I was very tired from the last two days,'' Dokic said. ``I think that I was run down and tired and it came down all at once.''

Williams had 23 winners and 24 unforced errors, while Dokic had only five winners and 26 unforced errors.

Agressiveness paid off for Williams, who converted on 90 percent of her net approaches while Dokic converted on only 42 percent.

``I hit two or three unbelievable drop shots, and in two steps Venus was there to hit winners,'' Dokic said. ``I am happy that I got to the final. I'm a little disappointed today, but compared to last year, I am playing a lot better on the hard court.''

On Saturday in the semifinals, Dokic defeated Anna Kournikova of Russia 6-7 (6), 7-6 (2), 6-0.

Williams has now won two tournaments in a row after winning the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford last week.

``I am not getting bored with tennis,'' Williams said when asked if the game has lost its challenge. ``Mainly the whole time I am fighting with myself to keep the ball in play and not make errors.''

Aug 11th, 2002, 11:43 PM
Source: San Francisco Chronicle

AS SHE left the court behind the regal Venus Williams last night, carrying a bag that seemed a bit large for her frame, Kristina
Brandi struck the look of a caddy. It was just another night on the women's tour, a perfectly fine tennis player reduced to ashes.

Williams hit the Bank of the West Classic in all her glory, crushing the ball without mercy and making a lime-green outfit look
like the only sensible choice. The Stanford event marks her first tour appearance since Wimbledon, and not much has changed.
Talent, icy demeanor, guts under pressure -- all the things we used to say about Margaret Court, Chris Evert and Steffi Graf -- fit
nicely into every Venus critique these days.

She was talking about her goals in tennis last night, after her 6- 4, 6-3 conquest of Brandi, saying that despite two Wimbledon
titles and her U.S. Open championship, "There's a lot I haven't done. I haven't been No. 1 in the world. I haven't won the French
Open or the Australian. I haven't really been around that long."

That's hardly the feeling among Bay Area tennis insiders. To them, Venus has been around forever, and they've watched her grow
up, from the 14-year-old kid making her pro debut at the Oakland Coliseum Arena in 1994 to the most feared player, rankings be
damned, in the world.

The maturation process has been remarkable, to the point where Venus' act -- both off and on the court -- is unassailable. People
take potshots at her father, and sister Serena's injury-tormented slump has been cruelly questioned by both the media and other players on tour, but Venus is the very definition of an evolved personality. She was cranky and temperamental in her first Wimbledon, back in '97, and now you couldn't bother her if you fired a round of shotgun blasts from behind the service line.

When a certain lineswoman called no less than six foot-faults on Venus last night, there was a steely calm. During a rash of
unforced errors in the second set, her expression never changed. She allowed herself two glimpses of emotion: A smile to the
crowd after she won an electrifying point for 5-2 in the first set, and a quick little dance -- not unlike her Wimbledon celebration
this year -- when the match was over.

In a brief postmatch press conference, she often flashed that smile that says, "I know a few things you don't, and I'd rather keep
them to myself." But she did admit, "You know, this is a great job. Every now and then I reflect on it, and I really like being a
professional tennis player. This is good."

For fans of women's tennis, there can't be a better bargain than the two-court setup at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Stadium.
There was a bit of magic in the air around dusk as Williams and the engaging Kim Clijsters played their matches side-by-side,
separated only by a 3-foot partition, to the backdrop of a pink-and-turquoise sky.

"I must say it can be distracting," Williams said, "if you're playing next to an interesting match and it gets a little too interesting, and everyone wants to watch that." Such was the case last night, as Clijsters was taken to a third set by Cara Black, but for anyone sitting in Williams' half of the facility, there was only one show. Would her serves reach 120 mph? Can you ever get enough of that wicked cross-court backhand, or her incredible court coverage? Can you believe how she takes short shots out of the air with that looping, topspin forehand?

Everything about Venus is distinctive, and at the top of the list we'll put her hairstyle. More specifically, she has one. White
baseball caps are all the rage now; the entire women's tour has turned into Patty Fendick. All three of the other players wore
them last night, undoubtedly cashing in on endorsement money but unwittingly stripping themselves of style or individuality. Can
you imagine a hat on Evert, Graf or Martina Navratilova? No chance -- and no hat for Venus.

There is one old-style element to this tournament, and that is the inevitability of the final matchup. It wasn't so bad when that
meant Evert-Navratilova, and Williams-Lindsay Davenport sounds pretty good, too. Not to demean the chances of Monica Seles
or Meghann Shaughnessy, a player who should be seen while she's here (Shaughnessy plays Venus in today's afternoon session), but the prospects look good for Williams and Davenport contesting this final for the fourth consecutive year.

It means critical stylistic differences. It means a bit of intrigue, since Davenport has been clearly and publicly put off by both
Richard and Serena Williams. Based on recent developments, it means the smart money leaning toward Venus.

Aug 11th, 2002, 11:48 PM
Venus, Capriati have won past 5 Slams
By Greg Garber

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- There was a pale, fleeting moment when it looked like Jennifer Capriati might climb back into her match with Venus Williams last Friday night. It was 1-all in a second-set tiebreaker and the 11,000-plus crowd at the Connecticut Tennis Center, aching for a third set, tried to carry Capriati home.

Jennifer Capriati says her loss to Venus Williams in the semifinals at the Pilot Pen does not change her outlook going into the U.S. Open.

Instead, what those hopeful spectators got was a sobering vision of the future of women's tennis. Hint: it isn't Capriati, the feel-good, comeback story of the year in sports.

Williams, whose shrill grunts only materialize when the stakes warrant them, hit an unreachable volley, then a spectacular forehand winner. Shaken, Capriati steered a tentative forehand into the net. After Williams ripped another forehand winner, Capriati dumped two backhands into the net. Six straight points, in the white-hot heat of a big match.

And just like that, Williams was a 6-4, 7-6 (1) winner at the Pilot Pen tournament.

"I'm pretty pleased with it," Capriati said afterward. "Some things I could have done better, but I felt like I was close."


"I look at it as a good warm-up match before the Open," Capriati continued. "You know, obviously, that's where it counts. And this, you know, still gives me -- it doesn't change my attitude going into the Open at all."

Obviously. For the record, Capriati has never beaten Williams in three meetings. This is relevant because the U.S. Open is upon us and it likely will determine who will be anointed the women's player of the year.

It has been fashionable to say that this year's Open, which begins Monday, is the Wide Open, particularly on the women's side. Favorites include Martina Hingis, somehow still the world's No. 1 ranked player, Lindsay Davenport, the No. 3 player, young Belgians Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, resurgent Monica Seles and Serena Williams, the 1999 Open champion.

The truth is that, between them, Venus Williams and Capriati have won the past five Grand Slam singles titles. Williams finished the 2000 season with wins at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and Capriati took this year's Australian Open and French Open before Williams won Wimbledon.

Both Williams and Capriati politely allowed that they were among the favorites, but only Davenport, a congenital truth-teller, was willing to state the obvious.

"She won it last year and she's played well this summer." Davenport said on Saturday after falling to Williams in the Pilot Pen final in straight sets. "I would think that Venus is the favorite."

Tapping into toughness
Mental toughness is an over-used phrase that is bestowed upon athletes by the all-knowing media. Invariably, the winners have it and the losers, well, they don't. Divining what happens inside someone's brain is tackling a slippery slope, indeed, but that doesn't stop people from trying.

Williams' gentle, terminally bemused nature in interviews has led observers over the years to posit that she lacks the killer instinct necessary to become a consistent champion. Until last year, they were right. There were numerous episodes that suggested Williams wasn't taking the game seriously enough. Williams, in her candid, self-deprecating comments, has helped to advance that notion.

Venus Williams says she gave up during her 1999 U.S. Open match with Martina Hingis and that she'll never lose that way again.

But now, underneath Williams' airy veneer, there is someone who wants to win quite badly. Williams traces this transformation to a single match, the 1999 U.S. Open semifinals against Hingis.

It was a spectacular match, but Williams collapsed in the third set after breaking Hingis in the third game. Her legs cramped and a trainer was called on for fluids and a brief massage. Williams lost five of the last six games and the match, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

"I just gave away the match," Williams said Saturday with obvious disgust. "I refused to win, basically. That was the last time I ever did anything like that."

And that almost makes it an unfair fight.

Tenacity aside, Williams is already the game's best athlete. At 6-foot-1, she has an unnatural wingspan and the speed to run down baseline balls other players can't. Her serve is the biggest bomb in women's tennis history, and like a seasoned pitcher she has learned to change speeds.

In the third game of the New Haven final, she blinded Davenport with this love service game: 1) a 92-mph slice outside for an ace, 2) a 103-mph slider down the T that was ricocheted wide, 3) a laser at 113 mph that was unreturnable and 4) a sliced second serve at 83 mph that Davenport was lucky to get her frame on.

When Williams comes to net, something she doesn't particularly like but seems to find herself doing more often, she wins points. On match point, she charged to pick up a ball that had skimmed off the net cord and when Davenport ripped a passing shot Williams would not be passed. She made a ridiculous back-handed stab volley to beat Davenport -- and this is almost hard to believe -- for the eighth time in their past 10 matches.

"I just didn't handle her pace as well as I need to and haven't maybe as well as I used to," Davenport said. "I still need to do better about dictating the points more and really trying to be more offensive than maybe I have been."

Williams has been more than merely offensive; she can be downright mean. In her quarterfinal match against Henin, she clipped the Belgian on the left wrist with a serve. Henin's sharp, flashed look was of hurt, not anger. When Davenport returned a serve that had been called out, Williams fired it back in the direction of her head. Davenport, who had turned around, spun back and glared at Williams. It wasn't a look of anger, but of surprise.

Both actions, intentional or not, underline Williams' steely approach.

Prodigal daughter
In terms of tennis, Williams has actually been a late bloomer. Her father and coach, Richard, eschewed the traditional junior circuit, leaving Venus and Serena remarkably unsavvy for their age and stage.

Venus won her first Grand Slam last year at the age of 20; Hingis, by comparison, is three months younger and had already won her five Grand Slam titles by that age. Interestingly, Williams has closed the slam singles gap to 5-3 and it appears that she will finish her career well ahead of the Swiss star.

Richard Williams' main mantra that has helped his daughters succeed is self-sufficiency. There is no coach -- in New Haven, Venus' mother Oracene was listed as her coach -- chirping about practice and conditioning. Of course, independence can have a downside if you don't have the maturity to handle it.

Fashion, boys and the good life have all conspired to disturb the mechanical rhythms of practice and matches that the top players must adhere to. Hingis, who reportedly has discovered the opposite sex in a big way, is the most recent casualty in this area.

Still, somewhere between 20 and 21, Venus Williams decided to pay the price required of a champion. Capriati, who is four years older than Williams, discovered the same resolve late last year.

"I'm confident before I go out and play a match that I know I've put in the work and like I feel confident that I am going out there and play well," Capriati said last week. "Even against the top players, I'm always going to give them a good match and make it hard for them.

"Maybe it even starts before in the locker room. And, you know, that's helped me a lot. And maybe the other players don't play as well because of that. The tough situations, you know, I can really draw on -- in those experiences and think how I handled it before. I think to myself, 'I've been in this situation before and I've pulled it out.' "

Because of the vagaries of the WTA Tour, Capriati and Williams are ranked No. 2 and No. 4, respectively. The way the draw breaks down, they would meet in the semifinals. If Capriati manages to win the title, she would be the reigning women's player. Ditto for Williams.

There are numerous reasons to think that Williams will emerge after the fortnight at the National Tennis Center. Consider her hellacious run last week through the Pilot Pen field. When rain washed out her quarterfinal match with Henin on Thursday, she was forced to play two matches on Friday, a professional first.

It took three hours and 31 minutes, but Williams dispatched both Henin and Capriati, then came back the next day to defeat Davenport. In a span of less than 26 hours, Williams took out the world's No. 2, No. 3 and No. 6 players -- a concentrated, grueling test that even the U.S. Open isn't likely to present. Only the feisty Henin was able to take even a set from her.

The scary thing? These days Williams very rarely loses points because she isn't in position to make a shot. Most often, she fails when she goes for too much or tries to get too cute with a drop shot. In winning three of the past five Grand Slams, she has displayed a confidence and a new consistency that is, frankly, daunting to her rivals.

And this year, the defending champion insists, she is better prepared than last year for the Open.

"I was lazy last year," she admitted in New Haven. "I left the California tournaments and I went home for two weeks and I barely hit. When I go to a tournament, I will practice. At home [Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.] is where I guess I don't do my job the way I should.

"This year I did practice more, and I just -- I just like to win. I don't like losing, so if I want to keep winning, I know I have to practice."

Aug 11th, 2002, 11:51 PM
Sisters' drive to No. 1 will push aside Hingis

Bruce Jenkins Tuesday, September 11, 2001


SAYING FAREWELL to the U.S. Open tennis championships and their most relevant themes:

THE WILLIAMS SISTERS: This time, the spectacle and cultural significance were quite enough: a Grand Slam title being contested by two African American women in Arthur Ashe Stadium. People will be looking for more compelling theater when Venus next plays Serena -- and the outlook is reasonably good.

For one thing, both sisters have an eye on the No. 1 ranking. This Martina Hingis sham is getting on everyone's nerves, and if the Williamses play more tournaments, that means more computer points. Venus, No. 4 at the moment, should be on top by mid-2002 if she fulfills her promise to play more often.

It's really up to Serena to bring their on-court performances to life. She made the most mistakes in their Wimbledon (2000) and U.S. Open confrontations, showed the most nerves. But she's starting to alter her game slightly, realizing that her incredible athleticism begs for more trips to the net. Variety is the key to any good match, and as soon as the sisters start mixing pace changes and serve-and-volley points into their games -- consistently, not just on a lark -- their "rivalry" might flourish.

There's nothing anyone can do about the winning-and-losing end. You'll never see Venus or Serena doing a dance or a fist-pumping victory lap at the other's expense. But as Serena said after Saturday night's match, "It's not that difficult now, playing Venus. I really have no problem with it, and I'm sure she doesn't. I guess our fighting is done only on the court, because we never fight."

One last, ominous word from Serena: "My game, in terms of potential, is about a 4 out of 10 right now. You guys haven't seen anything yet."

THE MYTH: There's no denying the widespread appeal of women's tennis and its considerable edge over the men in that regard. But how many books or magazine articles can you read about the "cat-fight" mentality? On the court, the men have been an infinitely better show.

Among the heralded Big Five -- Venus, Serena, Hingis, Jennifer Capriati, Lindsay Davenport -- there wasn't a single great match at either Wimbledon or the U.S. Open this year. As patterns develop, rivalries are fading.

Hingis and Davenport just don't have the stuff to beat the Williamses any longer. Capriati wilted badly in her Open showdown with Venus and has yet to beat her anywhere. The Venus-Serena matchup has the best potential for pure tennis, and we know the inherent flaws there.

The men don't have a hierarchy of haughty, bickering celebrities, but they gave us Lleyton Hewitt-Taylor Dent, Roger Federer-Pete Sampras and the unforgettable Goran Ivanisevic-Patrick Rafter final at Wimbledon. They gave us Sampras-Andre Agassi, Hewitt-Andy Roddick and some lesser classics (like Gustavo Kuerten-Max Mirnyi) in New York. And they have some good, exciting young players on center stage. They don't have a thing to worry about.

AWFUL: 1. The self-serving daily announcements about record attendance, when virtually every match has an embarrassing number of empty seats. To blame:

corporate buffoons who buy the tickets and either don't use them or wander the grounds trying to look like tennis players. 2. Starting an evening program with mixed doubles (attendance: 108) and forcing the Roddick-Hewitt match to start at 9 Eastern. And they wonder why the place was half-empty at midnight? 3. CBS railroaded the late-night television rights so inflexibly that as Roddick-Hewitt came to its excruciatingly tense conclusion, USA Network went off the air in the eastern half of the country and CBS, with a stone-cold Patrick McEnroe suddenly calling the shots, took over.

THE MATCH: In the wake of the Sampras-Agassi quarterfinal, some observers were calling it the greatest match ever played. Others (including this corner) prefer the John McEnroe-Bjorn Borg Wimbledon final of 1980, featuring an 18-16 tiebreaker among other heady theatrics. The feeling seemed universal that it was the best men's match ever played at the U.S. Open.

THE KID: Roddick made an interesting comment early in the tournament, saying, "I don't think of my age (19) as a crutch to be unpoised." But he lost it, badly, in his tantrum against chair umpire Jorge Dias during a crucial stage of the Hewitt match.

MEMO: To both Roddick and Hewitt -- ditch the hats. This is the big-time, not a skateboard park. Time to start representing your sport responsibly -- and you'll look twice as good.

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

Aug 11th, 2002, 11:53 PM
Dominating Divas

Venus Williams By Andrea Leand

How difficult to dwell on the U.S. Open women's event when some 60 hours after Venus Williams successfully defended her crown, thousands of innocent people lost their lives in terrorists attacks in New York and Washington. The enormous tragedy dwarfs any need to analyze forehands, well-fought matches and off-court feuds.

Images of the World Trade Center disintegrating like a washed out sand castle, tearful relatives relaying last minute goodbyes with family phoning from hijacked planes and helpless people trying to escape from the blazing Twin Towers contrast with the magnificent moments of the Williams sisters' historical surge to this Grand Slam final.
Such tragedy prioritizes what the Williams sisters have always known—what is important and what is not. As big picture thinkers, they kept their careers in perspective and never chose one-dimensional, tunnel-vision lives like other tennis prodigies. Despite snickers from cynics and rivals, they refused to play a more extensive tour schedule, and instead made time to earn their degrees from the Fashion Institute and take primary roles in charities, including the OWL Foundation and Players That Care Foundation (for ovarian cancer.) Their occasional absences from the tour this year allowed Jennifer Capriati to jump to No. 2 and dropped Serena to No. 10 and Venus to No. 4.

But neither sister looked too concerned about their ranking drops on arrival at the National Tennis Center. Their red-hot summer in stockpiling three more titles—Venus taking titles in San Diego and New Haven, Serena prevailing in Toronto—cast them as primary threats to Capriati. In fact, the U.S. Open proved the perfect playground to settle bragging rights for No. 1. Clearly, not even fellow players considered Martina Hingis world champion despite what the WTA computer spit out. Hingis racked up points by playing more events than others, but her drought at Grand Slam events and dismal match record against prime names calls into question her mainstay at No. 1 and the tour's ranking system.

Still, seeding 32 players in the draw for the first time protected Hingis and her top ranked cohorts through the first few rounds. This new approach prevented stars from facing an opponent ranked in the top 32 until the third round, and consequently, a repeat of the French Open wherein Venus fell in the first round to 17th ranked Barbara Schett. This directive may have ***ured marquee names in second week battles, but it also made for dismally ho-hum first week washouts.

The only brilliant flashes were from rookie Daja Bedanova and revived veteran Iva Majoli in preliminary matches. The former, a Czech teenager, seemed so slight and unimposing swallowed up in an oversize chair in the player lounge but still emerged a siren with a lethal serve against Seles. Only weeks earlier Seles looked like her former self after crushing Capriati, Hingis and Serena Williams in reaching two consecutive finals in San Diego and Los Angeles.

But Seles peaked too soon this summer and against the lithe, unfazed qualifier seemed stuck in cement. The feisty Bedanova, who upset No. 12 seed Meghan Shaughnessy in the previous round, made Seles look old and slow. The 18-year-old out-slugged the game's best slugger and then capped it off by blasting serves by the sport's greatest returner. A stunned Seles offered little explanation; a matter-of-fact Bedanova saw no reason for surprise.

If Majoli had possessed Bedanova's resolve, she may have pulled off the biggest upset of the fortnight in her third round against Hingis. Once ranked No. 4, Majoli came within two points of overtaking the world champion as she did to prevail at the 1997 French Open. Her stinging ground strokes took Hingis to a third set tie break, but the Croat, craving similar acclaim awarded her compatriot and Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, caved under the pressure. Emotions of the moment, not physical fatigue caused her to bend over begging for breath and dissolve at 5-5 in the tiebreak. Credit Hingis for switching gears after a set and half drubbing and choreographing the well-varied shot combinations of short angles, drop shots and surprise net charges that successfully separated her from the pack years ago and secured her three-set victory this time.

The much-anticipated later round duels never lived up to the hype. Without a game plan or patience, Jelena Dokic—minus disruptive dad Damir—never posed much threat to Hingis in the fourth round. Wimbledon finalist Justin Henin and French Open finalist Kim Clijsters bowed out pitifully to Serena in the 16s and Venus in the quarters, respectively. Only the quarterfinal bout between quiet contender Lindsay Davenport and Serena jolted the buzz in the women’s competition.

It was simple to overlook Davenport in the draw; her subtle disposition and strokes lack the in-your-face flash of her counterparts. Capriati's grit, Venus' proud posture, Serena's exhilaration and Hingis' sass flesh out their games with added dimension. Davenport shows little emotion; her strokes are as straightforward and uncompromising as she is. To understand her strengths is to appreciate her consistent standard of high quality play.

Likewise, her three-set extravaganza against Serena provided the best quality tennis in the women's event. The evening delight marked a career turning point for the 19-year-old who finally conquered her nerves. As usual, Serena came out firing to take a convincing set and half lead but buckled nervously when trying to close it out. Davenport stayed steady to take the second set tie break but could not keep up with Williams' superior shot-making and speed. Despite squandering a 3-0 lead in the third set, Williams found her nerve to close out the match.

"I asked Venus how she deals with getting nervous," Serena said in explaining how she was able to hold on to her nerve this time for the victory. "She told me that champions do not get nervous. So, I told myself in the match not to be nervous and just to play."

Television producers and tournament officials gave away smiles when the world's four best players reached the semifinals. Although positioned as heavyweight battles, both Williamses needed to play at only 75 percent of their potential to advance to the final. Serena so dominated Hingis that the world No. 1 failed to win a single point off of Serena's first serve. After the 51-minute demolition, her well-poised sister overcame a nagging cold and cough, hostile crowd and resolute Capriati to reach her third U.S. Open final.

"I don't think that I've played my best tennis, but I'm getting through," Venus said. And in truth, she never had to play her best tennis to defend her title. Her straight-set victory over Serena in the final proved anticlimactic. There were no accusations of match fixing as both women did their best under the difficult psychological circumstances of facing a sibling.

Then again, the tennis was clearly secondary during a final that presented one of the most impressive spectacles in sport. The star-studded capacity crowd, Diana Ross' rendition of "America, The Beautiful" and an eye-popping fireworks display set a scene of Super Bowl status. An hour or so later when locker room attendants showered a victorious Venus with their customary confetti as she entered, there were no losers or tears.

In fact, the sisters had celebrated with family the previous night; "both of them reaching the final was the victory, said mom, Oracene. "This will go down in the history books…but like Muhammad Ali, you probably only get sense of the accomplishment years afterward."

Indeed, the sister final—the first since Watson siblings, Maude and Lillian, reached the 1884 Wimbledon final—raised the bar another level in the sport. And to think that both women reached the final without playing their best tennis. Who could challenge them if they played to their potential? Hingis waved the white flag before taking her racquet out of the cover, Davenport surrendered without much more explanation and Capriati admitted to running out of steam after just five games against Venus.

Not even off-court concerns rattled the sisters who handled adversity with intelligence, maturity and good humor. Commotion and controversy over their father, Richard, who kept an unusually low profile until leaving hours before the final, never bothered either woman. They proved the adults in the house on all occasions. When one gruff tournament transportation head tried to bully a rider with his irrational ranting and raving, a sympathetic Venus stepped in unsolicited and insisted on giving the wronged individual a lift in her car.

Then again such generosity and thoughfulness is typical from Williams, remembering what's important and what's not. "When I heard of the tragedy," said Venus who had left New York just hours before the attack on the World Trade Center, "my heart immediately went out to all those affected. I was astonished to learn that such things could happen. Only a few days before there had been such joy (at the U.S. Open) but now we all feel such sorrow. The only thing important now is to pray for those families who have lost loved ones."

Aug 11th, 2002, 11:54 PM
By Alastair Himmer

TOKYO (Reuters) - Former world No. 1 Martina Navratilova says she would have been a match for any of today's top women, with the possible exception of Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion Venus Williams.

"I think at my best I would stack up pretty well against anybody at their best. But Venus is so big and she isn't at her best yet," Navratilova, who is currently enjoying a comeback as a doubles player, said Sunday.

However, the 44-year-old Navratilova, who competed at this week's Toyota Princess Cup in Tokyo with Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, complained that the modern game is too one-dimensional with the emphasis on big serving and power from the back of the court.

"Today's players are better hitters, but the variety has gone down. Everyone stays on the baseline. It would be weird for me to do that, even on clay," she told Reuters.

The Prague-born American, who won 167 singles titles -- more than any man or woman in the history of tennis -- between 1975 and 1994, claimed that the result would have been hard to call if she had ever faced Williams at the peak of her powers in the 1980s.

"My lefty serve would have given her fits and my variety would have been pretty good against her. But Venus has the wingspan of a condor. It's unbelievable," said Navratilova, who won 18 grand slam singles titles on the back of an aggressive serve-and-volley game.

The nine-time Wimbledon champion had some words of advice for current world No. 1 Martina Hingis, who has failed to win a grand slam since the 1999 Australian Open.


"Take away the serve and Hingis wins because she doesn't miss. But she needs to improve her serve. The big hitters win too many free points on their serve -- she wins hardly any," said Navratilova.

"She used to have to beat one big hitter but now there are too many of them. Their average game beats her average game. Their great game beats her great game."

Of her own prospects, Navratilova believes she is very close to winning her 166th career doubles title following her return to the tour at last year's Wimbledon.

Her visit to Tokyo, however, ended in a disappointing defeat to unseeded Janet Lee and Rachel McQuillan at the quarter-final stage.

"We beat (Lisa) Raymond and (Rennae) Stubbs in Toronto (in August) and they're the No. 1 team in the world. I know we can beat anybody, but we've lost to teams we should've beaten," said Navratilova, who will continue to play with Sanchez-Vicario until the end of the year.

Still questioning line calls and pumping her fists during matches, Navratilova insists she is still deadly serious about her tennis.

"I'm not doing this to bask in the limelight. When I walked away, I didn't really need to hit another tennis ball the rest of my life," she said. "But when you're around it you want it. The passion never goes away."

Aug 11th, 2002, 11:56 PM

September 17, 2001 Vol. 158 No. 11
Williams Wins!
Dad said it would happen, and he was right: Venus and Serena will set the future of women's tennis

After the Williams sisters took on the world, they had to take on each other. After Serena demolished Martina Hingis on Friday and Venus whipped Jennifer Capriati a couple of hours later--all their U.S. Open challengers felled--father Richard Williams said he was grabbing the first jet out of town. He said, "I doubt any person in their right mind would want to see their kids out there fighting like hell in an arena." He said it would make him sick to his stomach.

But not even a father could turn his head away from this. It was rumored that Richard never got on that plane. And he probably didn't even get nauseous. After all, the U.S. Open women's all-Williams final on Saturday night seemed a lot less like a gladiator fight than a carnival. Before the match, two women on stilts with tennis-ball headware watched couples dance to blaring Elvis Presley right outside the main stadium. The Harlem Gospel Choir performed before Diana Ross sang God Bless America. Vanessa Williams, Rick Fox, Brandi and Spike Lee poured into the seats. There were certainly more black people in this tennis stadium than the last time sisters met for a majors final--in 1884, in pasty-white Victorian Wimbledon. It was appropriate that Arthur Ashe Stadium would be the site for the first duel between African Americans for a Grand Slam singles championship.

The audience was in for a treat. The last time the two were supposed to meet, at a semifinal match at Indian Wells, Calif., Venus pulled out at the last minute with a bum knee. And at the 2000 Wimbledon semifinal, their play was sloppy and uninspired, with Venus slumping toward a victory. But this time, Serena, 19--the more powerful but less disciplined player--turned it on at the beginning. Venus, 21 and still the more well-rounded, controlled strategist, broke her sister's serve in the fifth game of the first set. Serena's face, already locked stiff, became even more intense as she struggled, double-faulting the break point on her next service. "She's too competitive," said Venus before the tournament began. "She takes it to an extreme. That could be her weakness." After a week of controlled play, Serena melted into a puddle of 36 unforced errors, laughing in fits of embarrassment, shrieking in frustration and finally tossing her racquet away. By the end of the night, Venus had won her fourth major, 6-2, 6-4, and beat her younger sister for the fifth time in six matches.

But the crowd wasn't really there to see who won. At this point the sisters are still so inseparable--sharing hotel rooms, living together and even practicing together on Saturday morning--that there were not a whole lot of people who could parse favoritism. The crowd, enamored of its own cleverness, was giggling to shouts of "Williams" and "Serenus." It was there to celebrate a new era in women's tennis, the one that Richard, who wore a T shirt on Saturday with his own picture on it, had been predicting for 20 years. Even lunatics are right sometimes.

A mix of P.T. Barnum, Bill Veeck and someone out on a day pass, Richard taught his daughters tennis from instructional videos he had bought. While living in Compton, Calif., with little money, he said he was flipping channels and saw Romanian player Virginia Ruzici win a $35,000 check. He then hid his wife's birth-control pills in order to create a tennis player. He says he even got a friend to steal her purse so she wouldn't have her pills. In a new book, Venus Envy, Richard tells author L. Jon Wertheim that he owns the air rights over India, has a seat on the "Shanghai Stock Exchange," will make some $100 million from a website called homegirls.com, and has been offered $250,000 a night to sing at a Bahamas casino. This is just one afternoon with the guy.

Still, he got it right, not only by creating the two best players in the game but by gutsily holding out for a huge endorsement contract. And there will be more in what promises to be a long era of Williams domination. The end of the summer saw two tournament wins in a row by the Williamses--Serena in Toronto and Venus in New Haven. This year's Open was the death knell not just for Hingis, whose weak serve and clever volleying look a century old, but even for the "veterans"--powerful Capriati and Lindsay Davenport, who just did not appear to be in the same league. The generation of Williams contemporaries--players such as Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters--may never get its day in the sun.

Not only are the Williamses the strongest players in a sport in which power increasingly matters, but their volleys have improved, and they're less afraid of rushing the net. If they begin playing more tournaments next year, as they have vowed to do, Venus, ranked No. 4 at the Open, and Serena, ranked No. 10, will be fighting for the No. 1 ranking for a long time. And if Serena continues to improve her control and gets some confidence about facing her older sister, it will be interesting to see how they segue from partners to rivals--whether they will still room together on the road, whether they'll start a clothing line together, whether they can still practice together and whether they can remain doubles partners.

"Tennis is just a game, and we're entertainers," said Serena before the match. "People pay to see us play and perform. After that, we go home, and we're always going to be a family. We have to be able to separate tennis from family life." The first words Venus said to her sister after defeating her were "I love you." The sisters seem to have enough perspective to be able to pull that off. They get a lot of flack for saying tennis isn't the only thing in their life--for planning for their next careers by spending autumns learning how to dart dresses in the same class at a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., fashion college next to a strip mall--but that may be the only thing that gets them through a sibling rivalry that could otherwise make Cain and Abel seem like Waltons.

Even during the postgame speeches to the crowd, the two looked very much like sisters. And they still played up the sisterly rivalry. A smiling Venus said, "I always want Serena to win. I'm the big sister. I take care of Serena. I make sure she has everything, even if I don't have anything." Serena grimaced and tugged on Venus' arm. "Stop. Stop. Stop. Be quiet." Then she laughed. "For the younger sisters, we always look up to the big sister and we always want to win because they're always older and ahead of us." They're already learning how to split up their fans for the upcoming rivalry.

Reported by Amanda Bower/New York

Aug 11th, 2002, 11:59 PM
Venus Williams Outduels Hingis Into Final
It was in the thick of the third-set delirium, and a desperate Venus Williams was churning her sinewy limbs as if they were oars to reach one sideline of the court and then sprint to the other.

Each lunge produced amazed gasps from the witnesses inside Arthur Ashe Stadium yesterday. Each swashbuckling stab during this crucial ninth game only added to the tension. All the while, a meticulous Martina Hingis kept filling in the corners of the court as if applying a No. 2 pencil to a spreadsheet.

It was a brilliant contrast of style in an unending rally. Finally, as the two grew drunk with fatigue, Williams sent up a shot that arched into the air like a flare from the stranded.

This was Hingis's grand opening, her chance to get to match point in her semifinal at the United States Open. Trouble was, a bleary-eyed Hingis could not focus on the fuzzy blob.

"I was looking for the ball," Hingis said. "And I couldn't really see it. I couldn't believe it. I didn't do anything with that shot."

Instead of planting an overhead winner, she blocked it back to Williams. And instantly, Williams uncoiled a backhand passing shot down the line. It was 30-all, not 15-40, not the end, yet. A resilient Williams went on to hold her serve. She trailed, 4-5, and then ran off a string of three more games to deflate a crestfallen Hingis, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

Once Hingis cracked her last shot of the match into the net, an almost stunned Williams twirled around the court, and uttered the words, "Unbelievable, unbelievable."

But Richard Williams, the one who hatched his daughter's career from his vivid imagination, missed the end of a match that was so exaggerated in its high level of play, it was more like a tall tale. He did not get to see his daughter's wild advance into today's United States Open final, where she will play Lindsay Davenport, the other semifinalist winner from yesterday.

He did not get to watch her fight back to win her 25th match in a row and become the second Williams sister in two years — right after her younger sister, Serena — to have a chance to grab another Grand Slam title for the family trophy case.

In the ninth game of the third set, just after Venus Williams plopped a drop shot into the net at 15-15, a visibly rattled Richard Williams left his seat. Approached by reporters in the parking lot, he mumbled a few vulgarities and slipped into a car. At this point, his daughter had scrambled to go ahead, 6-5. So why the hostility, why the departure? Did he really have a business appointment, as one of his ***ociates said, or was he too unsettled to stay by his daughter's side? Venus Williams didn't care.

"I don't rely on my parents," she said. "I have it all figured out."

Hingis thought she did, as well. When she stuck to her blueprint, the slightly built Hingis had the powerful Williams in tangles. Repeatedly, Hingis drilled ground strokes to the center of the court, trying to jam Williams and stunt her wicked windup. Often, that tactic produced unforced errors.

But Hingis could not put enough depth on every shot, and she was spending too much time stabbing back floaters. With spellbinding accuracy, Williams moved forward and gobbled up the soft returns by ripping swinging forehand volleys into the open court.

"All my swinging volleys were perfect," Williams said. "Mostly winners, except for maybe one."

Williams pounded an amazing 51 winners in the match. But her aggression also produced 47 unforced errors. The more patient Hingis came up with only 13 winners, but had only 23 unforced errors. And there was one more statistical difference. Hingis, who had not double-faulted in her run at the United States Open, maintained that form. Williams struggled and hit five double faults.

Two of those double faults were especially critical. On serve in the first set, with Hingis ahead by 5-4, Williams crushed a double fault into the net. It was set point. Abruptly, Hingis had the first set under her belt, 6-4. After blasting her way through the second set, Williams had another untimely hiccup on her serve in the third set. Once again, she double faulted on break point. This one gave Hingis a 3-2 lead and a path to the final.

All Hingis had to do was hold on. If she had, she could have scored one for the meek against the mighty, and put one in the book for her alliance with Davenport against the Williams sisters. On Wednesday, Davenport ruined the possibility of an all-Williams final by eliminating Serena. On Thursday, Hingis congratulated her friend and told her, "One to go." But Hingis could not hold up her end of the deal.

"I heard Serena say the players don't want an all-Williams final because they don't like us," said Davenport, who survived the unseeded but battle-tough Elena Dementieva, 6-2, 7-6 (5), earlier yesterday afternoon. "The players don't want it because they want to be in the finals. I don't want to see an all-Williams final when I feel I should be there." Obviously, Martina feels the same way.

"We're not like sisters. We don't feel like we're ganging up on them or anything like that. We just have a nice relationship and get along well."

Venus Williams dismissed all the tag- team hubbub, and said, "These days, it's like W.W.F. Wrestling."

But yesterday, her rivalry with Hingis was true theater. There was nothing phony or scripted about it; the match provided pure competition between two beautifully different players. Around every point, there was an unthinkable stroke, an unpredictable end to a point.

In the ninth game of the third set, during the rally of Williams's career, all of the above unfolded. There was that helpless lob, just sitting there for Hingis to put away.

"That was a long rally, a lot of running back and forth," Hingis said. "Then you get an overhead. It's not easy. It looks so easy. But you miss it because you lose your balance. I was like, `Don't miss it.' "

That is exactly what she did. Once Hingis failed to put the point away, Williams planted the winner that turned the game around.

"I've gotten to have a pretty big heart these days," Williams said. "I really didn't want to lose. I felt like I deserve to be in the finals. I needed to get it done."

Aug 12th, 2002, 04:44 PM
thanks Queen O

:eek: :eek: Where do u get these from?

Anyway... much appreciated :kiss: :hearts:


Aug 16th, 2002, 01:20 AM
Hey.... :kiss:

I them from u know where ;) , hell... I posted over half of them there :rolleyes: :p


Aug 16th, 2002, 01:25 AM
Coach's Corner

July 14, 2000: An ugly occurrence marred the final weekend of Wimbledon, graphically highlighting the worst of today's media excesses. It illustrated how anyone can say anything about anybody in the wired world and be taken seriously. Pat Cash -- a past Wimbledon winner attending the tournament in some sort of media capacity -- lobbed out the "story" that the Williams semifinal matchup was fixed. The worldwide media stumbled all over themselves seeing who could fall on this live grenade first.
Cash's comments were outrageous, unprecedented for the sport, and utterly irresponsible. I can't think of a more damaging, maliciously insulting comment a member of the media could possibly aim toward two competitors in one of sport's crown jewel events than to say the result was rigged. He said Richard Williams told his younger daughter Serena (who'd already won the U.S. Open) to tank her match with big sister Venus so Venus could have a turn winning her own major title. Just how Cash knew this was never asked or examined in the 24-hour media melee that followed. It just was. All the major media outlets, print and electronic, repeated Cash's tale as if it were true.

Everyone with any tennis credentials was asked their opinion ... was the match fixed? The absurd ramblings of a part-time Aussie journalist were repeated over and over until his irresponsible statement became, ex post facto, a supposed real occurrence.

How exactly was the Williams family supposed to respond to this accusation: that they participated and colluded in the most heinous crime a professional athlete could be accused of inside the lines of their sport? Talk about trying to disprove a negative! So instead of basking in a well-deserved glow of being in the finals at Wimbledon, having dispensed with the joyless task of having to beat a sibling to get there, Venus Williams had to defend herself against outrageous accusations she can't prove are wrong. After all, if I say you killed your mother yesterday, you can call me a damn liar and prove it by trotting out old mom. How do you prove your baby sister didn't let you win? A tad unfair, I think.

What competitive siblings do you know who would ever let the other win at anything, let alone the semis at Wimbledon? Why would the father of a teenager as enormously gifted as Venus Williams risk the trust of his kids (as well as certainly ruining any sense of accomplishment for his oldest daughter) by telling Serena to tank? It's idiotic.

No respectable journalist should report a story like this, because unless Richard told them, how could they possibly know? If you don't know it to be true, it's just mean-spirited character assassination. With professional ethics as out of date as a cavalry charge, none of this stopped the press from picking up a National Inquirer, "Martians abduct Hillary Clinton"-type tale and running the story into the ground.

While I'm in the mood, Chris Evert's repetitive racial stereotyping of the Williams sisters on NBC was stunning. As Venus Williams was stomping all over the No.1 player in the world -- yanking Martina Hingis around the court like a spastic puppet -- Evert repeatedly portrayed the very white Hingis as the intelligent, cagey, court-wise counterpuncher, while Williams was the big, strong, usually out of control "athlete," a polite way of saying black. As if those nasty slice serves pulling Hingis 20 feet off the court, followed by down-the-line kills into the open court, were somehow fortunate genetic gifts. Maybe Chris, a great player in her day, was seeing herself being pushed around the court by a bigger, faster, stronger, and just-as-smart opponent, and helpless (as Hingis was) to do anything about it. When Venus and Serena met the next day, Evert often cited the wonderful athletic ability of the sisters, while criticizing their "sloppy" play. Personally, I didn't think it was sloppy at all. This was great stuff. I've been watching tennis for 30 years, and I've never seen women play that way. The final against Davenport was more of the same. Lindsey -- smart/ clever/white -- against the athlete. Somehow Evert made it seem so damn unfair ... Venus picking on poor injured Lindsey (the most devastating ball striker on the woman's circuit) that way.

In politically correct America, I can't believe NBC missed this one. Evert might as well start discoursing on the Williams sisters' secret weapon: a diet of fried chicken and watermelon. Whatever. She better get used to seeing the Williams sisters, though. They're already the best female players in the world.

In order to deal with crap like this, you have to be mentally strong and focused. It eventually hardened Venus, took abit longer with Serena. But now both are ready for whatever.

Aug 16th, 2002, 01:28 AM
Repeat stirs Venus' desire to dominate

By Doug Smith, USA TODAY

By Adam Butler, AP
Justin Henin says it will be difficult to wrest the Wimbledon title from Venus Williams, above, for several years.

WIMBLEDON, England — A year ago Venus Williams couldn't contain her happiness after winning Wimbledon, her first Grand Slam tournament title. Smiling broadly, she jumped from one side of the court to the other - almost in a single bound - spinning at times like a ballerina in freestyle. Her father, Richard, danced in the players' box. Venus flashed a similar smile Sunday, but for the most part, she kept her joy inside after becoming the first woman to win consecutive Wimbledon titles since Steffi Graf in 1995 and '96. Venus' father traded in his dance steps to take snapshots with his camera during the 68-minute final.
"I must have shot 18 rolls of film," Richard said. "I was excited."

No. 2 seed Venus defeated No. 8 Justine Henin 6-1, 3-6, 6-0 before a Centre Court crowd that decidedly pulled for the 5-foot-6 underdog in a match delayed from Saturday because of rain.

"I've had a lot of experiences like that with the crowd," Venus said. "Doesn't seem like that often that I'm the player that the crowd wants to win. For me, it's not as important because I want to win. Who knows, maybe there will be a day when they root for me."

The absence of support didn't prevent Venus from establishing herself as a potential dominant pro and the player to beat on Wimbledon's hallowed grass courts.

"I love Wimbledon," she said. "I have (won) 14 matches in a row here, plus the doubles. For me, that's really sweet."

It also was a turnaround from this year's first two Grand Slam events. In the Australian Open, she lost a quarterfinal to Martina Hingis 6-1, 6-1. In the French Open, she was upset in the first round by Barbara Schett.

Venus seems to be following a path similar to last year's, when she missed the Australian Open because of injury and lost in the French Open quarterfinals before beginning a 35-match winning streak that included the Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles and the Olympic gold medal.

"I think I can get that kind of form again," Venus said. "Once you've done it once, you can do it again."

Bright future

Henin, 19, was trying to become the first Belgian to win a Grand Slam event. She sees more Wimbledon titles in Venus' future.

"I think she can win Wimbledon a lot," Henin said. "(She's) tough because of her serve. It's unbelievable to try to return this kind of serve on grass. It was so fast with a lot of precision."

Henin's rise to the top seemed equally as swift. She reached the French Open semifinals last month, losing a heartbreaker to compatriot Kim Clijsters. Thursday, she ended Jennifer Capriati's 19-match winning streak in Grand Slam events in the semifinals.

"She plays a lot of gutsy matches," said Venus, who lost to Henin in the German Open 2 months ago. "If she just keeps playing the way she is, good things are bound to happen."

Henin's success drew Belgium's Crown Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde to Centre Court's Royal Box. Estranged from her father, Jose, Henin also was cheered from courtside seats by her coach, Carlos Rodrigues, and fiancé, Pierre Yves Hardenne. (Henin's mother died of cancer when Henin was 12.)

Henin will move from No. 9 in the world to No. 5 when the rankings are released today.

"I think I had 2 unbelievable weeks here," she said. "I have to work very hard to do my goals and come back to win Wimbledon. (Sunday), I proved — not all the match but during one set — that size doesn't matter."

Speed, too, can be an asset, and the 6-1 Venus has that in abundance. Martina Navratilova, who brought athleticism to the women's game in the 1980s, said that as an athlete Venus is in a class of her own.

"She has tremendously long arms and legs," said Navratilova, who holds the record for Wimbledon singles titles (nine). "When you think you've hit a winner, she takes two steps and flips it past you."

Ready to dominate?

Former pro Zina Garrison, a TNT analyst, said Venus seems ready to make another jump.

"I was really excited to see her so focused and talk about becoming a great champion like Steffi, Navratilova or Chris (Evert)," said Garrison, a Wimbledon finalist in 1990. "She's putting herself in that form and knows she can do it."

Venus suggested last week that she might be prepared to make a greater commitment to the training required to become a dominant pro.

"I get a little bored with practice; it's not always fun," she said. "Some of the champions like Steffi Graf or Ivan Lendl, that's where they really excelled, in practice. They were able to do well in practice because of that. Maybe I have to get the same attitude. I have to make it a priority. I have to play more. Either that or I have to win every Grand Slam (event), which isn't easy, so I'll play more."

But she and her sister, Serena, still plan to pursue degrees in fashion design in Florida this fall.

"That's for their careers after tennis," said their mother, Oracene. "Their tennis careers are only going to last but so long."

Last year, Venus became the first black woman to win a Wimbledon title since Althea Gibson in 1957 and '58. Oracene Williams said Venus' victory Sunday was another important symbol, especially for young African-Americans.

"It makes them proud and makes them feel that they can do it, too," she said.

On support from the African-American community, Venus said, "We know where our true fans are. Sure a lot of people say 'congratulations' after you've won, but we know where our base of support is, and we don't deny it."

Remarkable success

Top 10 pros for the last 2 years, the Williams sisters have enjoyed remarkable success even though they don't play full schedules.

Venus' interest in her tennis career seems to wane when the family is embroiled in controversy. That was the case a few months ago at an event in Indian Wells, Calif., after she was accused of faking an injury after defaulting to her sister in a semifinal. The next day Serena was booed continuously by a hostile crowd. A week later Richard accused some in the crowd of racism and vowed never to return.

"Indian Wells is in the past," he said. "We're looking to the future."

The sisters were honored at the Essence Awards, produced in part by Essence magazine, after the Indian Wells incident. Both cried during presentations.

"That was a tougher time for us," Venus said. "If it's not one thing, it's another.

Asked if tennis was a passion or just something at which she excels, Venus said, "Tennis is something I'm really good at; I like playing. It's a great job. Sometimes things get really complicated. Especially if you're having a really bad time in your career. But right now, things are quite simple.

Aug 16th, 2002, 01:29 AM
Venus appears ready for domination

WIMBLEDON, England — The match was moving along exactly the way Justine Henin liked. She lost the first set to Venus Williams in 20 minutes. Perfect. Why waste time on a first set anyway? This first set was 1 minute shorter than the first set in her match to Jennifer Capriati 3 days earlier at Wimbledon, and we all know what happened next in that one.

Henin went onto the second set and won it with less work and stress than was required to win the second set in the Capriati match. The crowd in Centre Court, still mourning Tim Henman's loss in the 3-day men's semifinal and having fallen completely in love with this diminutive new challenger, leaped to its feet and roared its approval. For Henin, everything was going exactly according to plan.

So here we were. The third set, once again. The set that was to be hers, the set that would confirm Justine Henin's emerging greatness, just as it did in the Capriati match.

And then Henin never won another game.

Just when we thought Venus Williams was on the ropes, in trouble and ready to lose, she rebounded with a withering display of power and nerve to capture her second consecutive Wimbledon title 6-1, 3-6, 6-0.

When she got up out of her chair and walked to the baseline to begin the third set with her serve, Williams wasn't thinking of how Henin had destroyed Capriati in this same situation. No, she was thinking about something very specific: "I was really ready to serve it up. At this point, I was very confident in my serve. ... By that point, I was just very relaxed, very loose, just really ready to compete."

Especially for Henin, we will now provide the French translation of Williams' quote: Merci et au revoir.

"Her serve was unbelievable all the match," Henin said. "I had a lot of pressure on my serve, especially in the third set. ... It's unbelievable to return this kind of serve on grass. I think it's amazing. It was so fast, a lot of precision. ... She put a lot of first serves in. That was tough because on my serve, I was obliged to serve very well. When you have all this pressure on you, you can be broken. So that's tough."

Williams' serve was clocked at 118 mph while Henin's hovered around 100. That's a very significant difference. Henin won two points in Williams' three service games in the final set. There was no magic left in her racket. And because Williams has made herself a better all-around player in the year since she won here, when her serve is on, there's almost no beating her on grass. She very well may dominate play here for years to come, the way Martina Navratilova did 20 years ago and Steffi Graf did 10 years ago.

But what of her infinitely fascinating world outside Wimbledon? Her father, Richard, says she is not long for the game of tennis but is heading elsewhere to make more money, wherever that mystical place might be. Venus Williams says she is going nowhere and in fact is planning to devote herself more to her game, which is a very good idea, since she's still just 21 and definitely can become better.

Just how good can she be? Won't it be fun to see? She's ranked No. 2 in the game at the moment to Martina Hingis, who can't win a Grand Slam event no matter how hard she tries and yet mysteriously remains No. 1.

Venus Williams says becoming No. 1 is on top of her list of priorities now.

"Maybe in the past, it wasn't," she said. "Grand Slams definitely are No. 1. Then No. 2, for sure, is No. 1." She giggled. "Oh, boy, like a Dr. Seuss book."

She is showing signs of settling down, of playing a more controlled game on court and a more subdued game off it. This was reflected Sunday not only in her demeanor, but also in the behavior of her unpredictable father.

She didn't forget to acknowledge her opponent as she almost did last year, lavishing kind praise on Henin, and he clearly is a much calmer man with a camera than a chalkboard. This time, there were no silly signs, no wild jigs on top of the TV booth — although it should be noted that after the match ended, he did take a step on the roof over the booth for a better camera angle before being immediately brought back by the helping hands of a few security guards. Being newsworthy doesn't necessarily translate into being popular, and Venus Williams knows this as well as anyone. She heard the raucous cheers for Henin; she knew the crowd was rooting for someone else.

"For sure they wanted her to win," Williams said. "I guess it's always nice to see the unexpected happen. But for me it's not an issue. If they don't agree with a call, it's not an issue. I don't function this way, where I have to have approval. ... For me, it's not as important because I want to win. Even if the crowd's on my side, I still have to win for me. I still have to hit the ball. They can't do it physically for me. Who knows? Maybe there will be a day when they root for me."

Aug 16th, 2002, 01:33 AM
LONDON, Nov 7 (Reuters) - The year's top-ranked player failed to win a Grand Slam, the game's most photographed face won just 10 matches in the year and the sport's premier team competition was reduced to a minor curiosity as the world's strongest nation pulled out at the last minute.

Whichever way you look at it women's tennis, able to boast only rationed appearances from Venus Williams, ends the season gasping for publicity, credibility and one of its genuine stars.

Lindsay Davenport cannot be blamed for the anomalies of a WTA ranking system that saw her finish top without a major trophy to her name in 2001.

Anna Kournikova is not at fault for the injuries that kept her away from the spotlight which adores her and there is sympathy for a United States Fed Cup team unwilling to travel in the wake of security scares.

But the overwhelming fact to arise from the year in women's tennis is that the sport needs Venus Williams. More, it increasingly seems, than Venus needs the sport.

Injuries have played their part in the Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion's season too and how debilitating the tendinitis Venus suffers really is, only she knows.


It was knee tendinitis which caused her controversial withdrawal from an Indian Wells Masters semifinal against sister Serena in March.

Tendinitis again reared its head two weeks ago, this time in the wrist. It was painful enough to prevent her from taking part in the season-ending Tour Championships.

In the absence of Venus -- an absence which the WTA Tour is investigating for validity -- the season ended with a sigh as the grand finale to the WTA Tour's year closed without a final.

Davenport pulled out of the final showdown with Serena with a hurt knee.

Serena played her part, affirming afterwards her intention to hit the top.

"My next goal is to be number one," she insisted. "I'm going to have to play more tournaments, play better at the Grand Slams. Maybe I can work harder to get to that goal."

Despite her best efforts to deputise, the void left by the absence of the enigmatic, willowy Venus blows a gaping hole in the middle of the tennis world.

Whether the WTA Tour will ever get the world number one it craves must be in great doubt.

Certainly Venus will also have to play more tournaments if she is ever to wear the crown that could have been struck especially for her.

But whether that will ever happen is increasingly doubtful.

She has won four of the last six Grand Slam tournaments she has played, and pocketed two Olympic gold medals along the way, but still Venus has not come close to claiming the top ranking.


The telling numbers reveal why.

This year Venus played just 12 tournaments, and not one since retaining her U.S. Open crown in September.

In 2000 she played 11.

Last year Martina Hingis finished world number one having played 20 tournaments, almost double that of her American rival.

This year the honour went to Davenport who played 17.

Davenport herself knows why she finished number one and makes no apologies.

"I fully believe that Venus would be number one if she played more. I can't help it that she doesn't though," she said last week.

"I mean, I'm not going to sit here and defend myself. Obviously, I can't help that Venus only plays nine or 10 tournaments."

It may be injuries, lack of appetite, outside distractions or a combination of all three conspiring to keep Venus away from competition.

Cheerful and engaging off-court, the American's brand of competing relies heavily on scowling intensity.

She rarely looks like she is enjoying herself, even after winning.

The sport is a phenomenally well-paid job. It may also have become a tiresome chore for the capricious, 21-year-old player.

One so tiresome that Venus may have to settle, in the history books at least, for second place.

Aug 16th, 2002, 01:34 AM
Author/s: Raquel Cepeda
Issue: June, 2001

Venus and Serena are tennis's new power set. So why are they the center of so much racket?

Venus Williams is stunning in the flesh. The 21-year-old tennis star glides into the quaint, dimly lit lobby of the West Palm Beach, Florida, Marriott more like a runway model than a pro athlete. She strolls in casualty--all six feet two inches of mostly Legs--clad in tiny jean shorts, a white Gucci fisherman's hat covering her braids, and a sleeveless spandex top that says, in royal-blue script, "Real." I offer her my hand. She takes it firmly. I smile at her. She doesn't smile back.

I'll be straight with you: Before my interview with Venus and Serena, I know all the dish about how the sisters have been dubbed brash and unfriendly. But I also know what every person of color in America does--that merely stepping into a room and breathing is enough to make some folks label you "brash and unfriendly." So I've set aside the rumors and come to let Venus and Serena show me who they are--and to explain why, in a sport that they have clearly redefined, they still get almost zero love on the tennis circuit.

Not until 19-year-old Serena steps into the room does Venus' face light up. At five feet ten inches, Serena is shorter than her sister and equally striking. She sports a look that screams "I'm here!" -- gold braids, a black micromini, a white cotton midriff top and a diamond-studded belly-button ring. It's not hard to understand why just seeing the two sisters in the same room elicits comparisons, however unfair: Both are tennis Trojans who sport phat outfits as daring as those worn by the late sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner. But don't get it twisted: Though Venus and Serena each have a killer game, they couldn't be more different.

In case you aren't one of the many proud Black folks who--though they don't give a rip about tennis--have held their collective breath for these sisters' victories, here's the 11-second version of what you've missed. In 1999 Serena, then 17, became the first Black since tennis great Althea Gibson in 1958 to win the U.S. Open. Then last year, Venus beat Lindsay Davenport and walked away with a Wimbledon victory--another feat that hadn't been accomplished by a Black person since Gibson did it 43 years ago. And at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Venus also became the first woman to win gold medals in both singles and in doubles, with Serena, since 1924.

Yet the Williams sisters haven't been without their detractors. Since they entered the sport as children, critics and commentators have often dismissed their mental fierceness by overplaying their physical prowess. And that's just a piece of the drama of what it means to be them: They travel constantly. Sometimes for six days a week, they push themselves through marathon-long sessions of practice. At only 19 and 21, they struggle to carve out a personal life. And then, of course, each sister sometimes has to compete with her best friend--the other one.

But none of this means the girls are whiners: They aren't really even talkers. I spent more than an hour with the two, but they must've been interview-weary, because I didn't exactly have to fight to squeeze a word in. Yet as a tennis player myself who grew up among the same well-heeled girls and opulent country clubs that have become their world, I can intuit a lot, and their mother and older sister fill in the details with comments they have never before shared in public. And in the end, I discover that what Venus and Serena don't say is often just as revealing as what they do.

Compton to Wimbledon

I'll do my part in debunking at least one urban legend. It's true that the Williams sisters didn't grow up on a prairie of white picket fences and privilege, but as tennis tots in Compton, California, Venus and Serena say they weren't dodging bullets and warding off junkies either. As the story of their rise onto the plush green grass of Wimbledon goes, Richard Williams, their father, once saw a tennis player receive a check for $30,000 after winning a tournament. It was at that moment that he decided to turn his two youngest children into tennis titans. There was just one tiny detail Richard had to work out: They hadn't yet been conceived.
As fortune would have it, his two youngest children turned out to be Venus and Serena. Richard, who back then oversaw a security agency, didn't know squat about how to play tennis--so he taught himself using an instructional video. As soon as his daughters were old enough to grip a racket, he began taking them every day to practice on a set of broken-down tennis courts near their home. By age 10, after Venus had gone unbeaten in 63 games, she won southern California's girls' title in the under-12 division. Serena, who entered her first tournament when she was only 4, soon succeeded her sister in that same division.

If their father was the gale wind of discipline at the girls' backs, their mother, Oracene, was the strong post that kept the gusts of strenuous work and stardom from toppling over their personal lives. "When Venus and Serena were very young, I would let them know that they had to be balanced, that they shouldn't think more of themselves than they actually were," says Oracene, who reared her children in the Jehovah's Witness faith. In all, Oracene and Richard have five daughters: Venus and Serena; 28-year-old Yetunde, a nurse; 26-year-old Isha, a law-school student; and 23-year-old Lyndrea, a television executive.

Even before her youngest daughters were born, Oracene, a tennis enthusiast herself, was already familiarizing them with their court of destiny. While pregnant with Venus and again with Serena, she played a match every morning at five-thirty--before going to her full-time gig as a nurse. Later, when the Williamses' preteen daughters practiced for six hours a day, six days a week, Oracene homeschooled them. And despite their father's zealous guidance of their tennis careers, he always demanded that hitting the books take precedence over slamming the balls. In 1996, after Richard removed Venus from the junior tennis circuit so she could focus on her studies, he told the New York Times, "People say, `Richard, have her play tournaments.' But I'd rather see my daughter with an education--not a common education like I have, but one that's in demand."

That's a stance Richard's daughters certainly respect him for now. "Kudos to them," says Venus of her parents, "because they really brought us up well. They made sure we got our education so that we could become more than just athletes." Though their father has had his share of bad press, some self-inflicted, his hand in the sisters' ascent to dominance is certain. "It takes love to have that kind of dedication--and to do it at no cost," says the second-oldest daughter, Isha, of their father's unpaid tenure as Venus and Serena's coach. Even now, they try to keep things in the family: Isha, upon graduating from lawschool, will handle the Williamses' legal affairs.

Whatever anyone may think of Richard's sometimes offbeat statements and actions--for instance, it was reported that he climbed atop an NBC booth after Venus' victory at Wimbledon last year and held up a sign that read "It's Venus' party, and no one was invited"--he made one prediction that's proving to be on point. When Venus and Serena were only 13 and 12, Richard declared that they would one day become the top two tennis players in the world.

Girlfriend Has an Attitude?

It would be surprising if the Williams girls didn't come off as chilly at times. Being a powerful Black woman in a sport overrun with wealthy White girls who huddle for sherry hours and bond over Perrier is enough to send any `round-the-way girl AWOL. And let's be real: What a White person calls a snub--like when one sports commentator remarked that it wouldn't @#%$ Venus and Serena to say hello to the other players in their locker room--is what a Black woman simply calls a strategy for blocking out negativity.

I know. In the late eighties, as a formerly ranked junior tennis player myself, I received a scholarship to attend a prestigious tennis academy in New York, and it was my introduction to a sport fraught with racial tension and outright bigotry. "There's just a nasty disrespect you see on some people's faces," says Isha of her sisters' experience among the tennis elite. "It's like, They're not supposed to be here.'" In fact, from the time Venus and Serena began competing in junior tournaments, Isha recalls that some people would tell their kids things like, "Don't let that little Black girl beat you."

"We still get hate mail," Isha says. "That kind of thing gets put in your subconscious--in the far depths of your mind--and you just don't think about it." But that doesn't mean the hurt doesn't manifest itself in other ways. Some have accused Venus and Serena of being rude. But if that's true, sniping at those who attack them may be their way of handling the pain of a constant barrage of unfair criticism. And as two of only a handful of Blacks ever to dominate their sport, the sisters have had to contend with one other ugly little reality: The same folks who dismiss them often fear them.

That's because Venus and Serena are to tennis what Tiger Woods is to golf--an unsettling symbol of change in America. "I don't think that White America will ever be ready to accept Black athletes who can think," says Peter Noel, an investigative reporter for New York s The Village Voice who witnessed firsthand the mixed reception Serena and Venus received at the 2000 U.S. Open. In one article he wrote, "Fear of the Williams Sisters," Noel dismisses the myth of the "superbred Black athlete" by pointing out Venus' and Serena's mental tenacity and strategic dominance. And still, Noel says, some White Americans view them as girls who came up from the ghetto who can't really put it down on a blackboard or in a game plan.

Last September, even tennis pundit @#%$ @#%$ pummeled the girls in an article he wrote for London's Telegraph, charging the two with numerous counts of unfriendliness and bad character. This is the same @#%$ @#%$ who was thrown out of Long Island, New York's famed Port Washington Tennis Academy as a youngster for his, well, bratty behavior. The @#%$ @#%$ whose temper tantrums are more legendary than his mastery of the sport.
Continued from page 3

"When the sisters met in the semifinals at Wimbledon 2000, sports announcers suggested that their father had fixed the match," says New York writer Ayesha Grice, who has closely followed Venus' and Serena's careers. "Instead of pointing out that the two sisters hadn't met in a match in decades--and had never met in the semifinals--the rumors kept seeping through in the media that something wasn't right." And still, after a six-month hiatus from the game and amid rumors of her early retirement, Venus went on to trounce her archrivals, Martina Hingis and Lindsay Davenport, to win both Wimbledon and, later, the U.S. Open.

But the criticism hasn't waned. World ranked player Pete Sampras once dismissed Venus' 127-mph serve as sheer luck. Then former world-ranked player Martina Navratilova--once criticized for being too masculine and aggressive for women's tennis--was reported to have denounced the Williams sisters' interest in fashion as being arrogant and a sign of their lack of commitment to the game. "I prepared Venus and Serena for public scrutiny when they were very young, because I knew that it would become part of their lives," says their mother, Oracene. "I wanted to make sure they were able to deal with the criticism and not take it personally--to keep it at a distance and to keep their lives private." That might be why when I mention Navratilova's comment to Serena, she says with indifference, "I didn't hear about that. People are entitled to their own opinions."

The Power Set

We've all heard the reports that Venus and Serena, though at times opponents on the court, couldn't be any tighter away from the game--in fact, they bought a Florida home together, which they've decorated in what they call a "contemporary classic" style. But all that love floating between them sort of makes you want to ask: Does their public camaraderie ever spiral into private competition?

Like all sisters you can be sure they've had their squabbles, though Isha says their kinship couldn't be more real. And no matter how many titles Serena wins, says Isha, Venus will always play the big-sister role. "Venus takes all the blows," she says, "so Serena is able to be free-spirited. That's good, because that's who Serena really is."

Not that the youngest Williams daughter travels in her older sister's shadow. That became clear two years ago when Serena beat out Venus and all others vying for the coveted U.S. Open top spot--a moment of victory that was followed by that unforgettable image of an ecstatic Serena, gripping her trophy while tears of joy flooded her face. "For the first time, she was catapulted out of Venus' shadow and put in the spotlight," says Isha. "She accomplished that victory on her own, before anyone else in our family."

There were many reports of a somber Venus looking on as Serena won the family's first grand-slam title. But according to Isha, that's quintessential Venus: serious and quiet. "She has carried much of the burden of their stardom," says Isha of Venus. "She's kind of world-weary. She has this attitude like, `Been there, done that.' That's just the person she is."
Continued from page 4

It takes Serena to tell you about Venus Lite--the self-professed "introvert" who is also a Golden Girls junkie. In a Tennis magazine story in which the sisters interviewed each other, Serena wrote, "Most people consider Venus serious because they only see her on the court.... But beneath that introverted surface is `Venus the Joker.' If you ever see us play a doubles match, you'll notice that the majority of the time, we're giggling--and it's usually at one of her jokes!" Serena continues, "Venus is more than a great tennis player--she is a great older sister, friend and person. Seeing that others are being helped, making sure her family is doing okay, and, above all, making sure that little sis is safe are what truly mean the most to her."

It was that kind of maturity and strength of character along with Venus' graciousness while being constantly provoked--that led Sports Illustrated for Women to name her "Sportswoman of the Year 2000." After winning in a straight-set match over Lindsay Davenport at Wimbledon last year, Venus told that magazine, "I feel really calm. I love playing tennis, I love winning titles. And I realize I wouldn't be any happier in my life in general if I won or lost. Sure, in the tennis part of my life, I'd be much happier if I won. But winning, losing, money, riches or fame don't make you happy. For my tennis career, this is great. But as far as me being Venus, it doesn't really make a huge difference."

All About Business

Though Venus says she doesn't feel any extra pressure as one of the few African-Americans on the pro circuit, her sister admits that racist undertones do permeate the sport. "And I'm sure there's a lot of hidden racism," says Serena. Yet because they keep winning tournaments and titles, they're in constant demand. "When you're a winner," Serena points out, "everyone--Black, White, Mexican or Hindu--wants to get on your team."

Indeed corporate sponsors are lining up to sign the sisters. Both Venus and Serena recently entered a three-year, $7 million contract to endorse Wrigley's Doublemint Gum. Venus also inked a $40 million contract with Reebok, while Serena sealed a $12 million deal with Puma. And the cosmetics company Avon recently signed the Williams sisters as spokeswomen in its first-ever global campaign, "Let's Talk." "They are young, spirited, fun, beautiful women who just happen to be sisters with a very strong and loving relationship," says Janice Spector, vice-president of advertising for Avon. The television spots feature Venus and Serena in a personal dialogue, a snapshot of the beauty buzz that happens when women get together to talk about the products they love and use. "It's a great deal, and Avon is a great company," says Serena. "They're like a Mercedes, one of the best things you can get out there."

That leaves the girls with around three minutes a day for trivial endeavors like, say, sleep. But that doesn't stop Serena from keeping her personal life popping. "Besides being a tennis player," she says, "I'm a designer, a model, an actress and a rapper." While Serena did appear in rapper Memphis Bleek's Do My video featuring Jay-Z, the "I'm a rapper" line is a joke. Serena will, however, make a cameo appearance in Black Knight, a comedy starring Martin Lawrence, slated for release this fall. She also took a design job with Wilson's Leather to create her own line of clothing, which she'll unveil this August. With such a demanding schedule, no wonder Venus and Serena say they're "off the market"--not dating or even thinking about it.

Besides having a passion for collecting designer watches and bags--on the day of our interview, Venus shows up carrying an enviable chocolate-brown-and-tan checked Louis Vuitton purse--they are equally serious about clothes. "I've decided I want to design," says Venus, who along with her sister is a design student at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale in Florida. "It's fun, and it always keeps changing. It's kind of like tennis--you have to keep reinventing yourself and getting better in order to have something new to bring to the market."
Venus and Serena have made no apologies for being kick-butt tennis players. Or for being confident, independent thinkers. Or for making women's tennis exciting by fusing an aggressive game with fashionably bold statements. Maybe all the joking around with each other that they do on and off the court keeps Venus and Serena from internalizing the criticism lesser mortals might succumb to. Or maybe they just like to laugh.

Raquel Cepeda is a writer in New York.
Raquel Cepeda interviews tennis's Williams sisters in "Courting Destiny" (page 124). "I didn't expect Venus and Serena to be so funny," she says. "They're practical jokers, really down-to-earth."
COPYRIGHT 2001 Essence Communications, Inc.

Aug 16th, 2002, 01:39 AM
Given the numerous historical footnotes attached to the women's final between Venus and Serena Williams, the match could hardly have been expected to justify the hype surrounding it--and it didn't.
Ultimately, the sell-out crowd endured a match that was as sloppy as it was epochal. Venus won 6-2 6-4, making more unforced errors in two quick sets (19) than Agassi had in four tiebreak sets against Sampras (18).
But, for all its glitter and electricity, the match was basically an intrafamilial exhibition, not to mention a premium-grade family psychodrama in which each Williams played a traditional role. As Serena would say afterward, "I think all the big sisters and brothers watching tonight were for Venus, and all the younger ones were for me."
Serena, two weeks shy of 20, with her blonde braids and shocking yellow outfit and shoes, struck a sharp note of contrast with Venus, 21, who broadcast self-assurance with her pulled-back hair, and conservative, predominatly while tennis dress. When Serena swiped at the court in frustration after making a forgivable error, she looked every bit the babe of the family feeling pressure to be perfect. And although Venus made some solicitous public comments about her protective big-sister role, Serena's life might be easier if she weren't constantly reminded of her little-sister status.
So the queston that burned long after Arthur Ashe Stadium's light towers went dim was whether or not sisters-especially a pair as bonded as Venus and Serena-could muster the cold-blooded passion and high-quality tennis of serious rivals. Venus' reaction made the possibility seem dubious. Though she'd defended her title and proved herself the dominant woman on tour, her most ecstatic pronouncement following the match was: "I feel OK. I'm happy I won the U.S Open again. But if it had been against a different opponent, I probably would be a lot more joyful."
Serena, who lost to her sister for the fifth time in six matches, is resolved to play as well against Venus as she does everyone else. "There's nothing I can do about having to play Venus," she said. "The good thing is that it's gotten easier for me, and the more we play, the easier it'll be for both of us to treat it as just another tennis match."
Given the inevitability of future final-round encounters between the two, let's hope so.

By Peter Bodo

Aug 16th, 2002, 01:40 AM
Venus enters Thalgo tourney
Wednesday, 21 November, 2001

GOLD COAST, Qld - Two-time Wimbledon and US Open champion Venus Williams and 2001 Wimbledon finalist and World No.7, Justine Henin (BEL), will headline a top-class international field at the 2002 Thalgo Australian Women's Hardcourts on the Gold Coast, Tournament Director Liz Smylie announced today.

"Some of the greatest players in the women's game today will be coming to the Gold Coast to begin their 2002 campaigns," Smylie said. "This year, Williams is undoubtedly one of the strongest players on the circuit with Henin following close behind. Combined with a host of other top players, next year's tournament is going to be a fantastic event, which is not to be missed."

In what is shaping up to be one of the most evenly matched line-ups in the tournament's history, the field also includes Frenchwoman Sandrine Testud [ranked No.11], American Meghann Shaughnessy [ranked No.12], last year's Thalgo Australian Women's Hardcourts finalist, Italy's Silvia Farina Elia [14], rising Czech star, Daja Bedanova [28], and Russian hotshot, Elena Likhovtseva [36].

Other players returning to the Gold Coast include Swiss miss Patty Schnyder [37], Australia's 2001 Fed Cup finalist, Nicole Pratt [52], 1997 French Open champion, Iva Majoli [42] and Wimbledon semi finalist Alexandra Stevenson (USA), who has spent this year improving her ranking by more than 30 places to No.60 in the world.

Tennis Australia President Geoff Pollard believes the calibre of players entered to contest the Thalgo Australian Women's Hardcourts is a sure sign that players enjoy competing in this event and are more than satisfied with the first-class facilities on offer at the Royal Pines Resort, the tournament's venue.

"The Thalgo Australian Women's Hardcourts is now in its sixth year and has grown from strength to strength," Mr Pollard said.

"From its early beginnings at the Hope Island Tennis Club to its current home at the picturesque Royal Pines Resort, the tournament has really made a name for itself as a quality event to open each new year's Sanex WTA Tour calendar and kick off Tennis Australia's Summer Circuit.

"This tournament represents a great opportunity for players to gain valuable match practice in preparation for the Australian Open in addition to competing for US$170,000 in prizemoney."

Meanwhile, in her fourth consecutive year as Tournament Director, Liz Smylie is anticipating a week of enthralling matches between some of the world's best.

"I'm really excited about how close the field is for the 2002 event," Smylie said. "The ranking cut-off for direct entry into the maindraw is 60, which means competition to play in this tournament is fierce. Last year's winner of this event, Justine Henin, is returning to defend her crown as is the player she defeated in the final, Silvia Farina Elia.

"Henin is such a thrilling player to watch with an abundance of natural talent. She had a great time on the Gold Coast this year, which is one of the reasons she has chosen to return. In addition to offering spectators the opportunity to watch some of the world's top 30 players in the world, the Thalgo Australian Women's Hardcourts is also a great place to witness some of the world's rising stars.

"Traditionally, this tournament is a springboard for ongoing success during the year with many players looking for a fresh start to boost their ranking. It is also a great event for young players looking to gain experience in a relaxed atmosphere.

"The new generation of stars which spectators should keep their eyes on during the tournament include 18-year-old Czech star Daja Bedanova, who in 2001 advanced to the quarter finals of the US Open, the round of 16 at the Australian Open and third round of the French. Slovakia's rising teen sensation, Daniela Hantuchova, is another player to watch out for. This year she had wins over the likes of Coetzer, Dechy, Dokic and Shaughnessy and is definitely one destined for big things.

"While 19-year-old Russian ace, Nadia Petrova, was instrumental in securing a berth for Russia in this year's Fed Cup Final against Belgium after defeating Frenchwoman Sandrine Testud in straight sets."

Wildcards for the maindraw and qualifying events are still to be confirmed but Victorian hopeful Christina Wheeler and local player Samantha Stosur could benefit after posting some outstanding results on the Australian Unity Tour.

"Both Wheeler and Stosur have won titles on the Australian Unity Tour recently and are working hard to improve their rankings and chances of gaining a maindraw entry," said Smylie.

Tickets go on sale for the Thalgo Australian Women's Hardcourts today (21 November 2001) through Ticketmaster7 and Smylie is encouraging tennis fans to come and watch what will undoubtedly be some exciting action.

"The atmosphere at this event is unlike some of the other tournaments around the world," Smylie said. "The smaller grandstands offer intimate surrounds where you are extremely close to the action and just a short stroll away from the other tennis activities planned for spectators throughout the event. It's a great day out for the whole family."

Tennis Australia and Tennis Queensland acknowledge the following sponsors of the Thalgo Australian Women's Hardcourts 2002: Thalgo, the Queensland Events Corporation, Gold Coast City Council, Sanex, Channel 7, Royal Pines Resort, Gold FM and the Gold Coast Bulletin.

The Thalgo Australian Women's Hardcourts 2002 will be staged at the Royal Pines Resort, December 30 – January 5. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster7 from Wednesday 21 November. Telephone 1300 136 122.

Aug 16th, 2002, 01:42 AM

Committee Confirms Venus Williams' Wrist Injury Prevented Her From Competing In Sanex Championships

Stamford, Connecticut (November 16, 2001) - The Sanex WTA Tour announced today that a distinguished and independent, three-person committee has formally excused Venus Williams' absence from the season-ending Sanex Championships two weeks ago in Munich, Germany, due to a wrist injury. As a result, Williams remains eligible to collect $140,000 in year-end bonus pool money.

Committee members included John D. Feerick, Esq., Dean of Fordham University School of Law and prominent sports arbitrator; Marc Safran, M.D., Co-Director of Sports Medicine, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, University of California, San Francisco; and Gary Windler, M.D. of Trident Sports Medicine, South Carolina. The committee was formed under the Tour's Rules in response to Williams' withdrawal from the Sanex Championships. It was charged with determining whether Williams' injury permitted her to be formally excused from the event and, thus, remain eligible to receive a portion of the 2001 bonus pool.

Williams' injury, which also forced her to withdraw from a Tour event in Austria the week prior to Munich, was confirmed by an independent physician as a chronic pisotriquetral joint injury (a chronic wrist joint injury). Williams missed five months during the 2000 season with a similar injury.

According to the committee, the confirming physician, upper extremities specialist Brian H. Fingado, M.D., was selected by the committee based upon "his expertise, reputation and availability to conduct a medical examination promptly." After reviewing information submitted by Dr. Fingado as well as Williams' personal physician, the committee concluded that the injury "medically prevented [Williams] from participating in the Championships."

"We are pleased that the process has been completed in a speedy and credible manner," said Tour CEO Bart McGuire. "This was made possible by the professionalism and cooperation shown throughout the process by Venus Williams and her entire team, as well as by the committee."

In response to speculation in some press reports that the Tour undertook an investigation because of skepticism about the seriousness of the injury, McGuire said, "In fact, the process began with a request from Venus Williams to be excused from the Sanex Championships so that she could recover her bonus pool money. In fairness to everybody involved, and also to defuse any potential criticism of either the process or the result, the Tour made sure that the process was a thorough one, undertaken by credible experts. We are grateful to the committee for its efforts, and we are satisfied that the result was fair and appropriate."

The Sanex WTA Tour is the world's premier professional sport for women. In 2002, more than 1,000 players representing 76 nations will compete for more than $51 million in prize money at 67 events in 33 countries. The Tour's season concludes with the Sanex Championships at the Olympia Halle in Munich, Germany from October 28 to November 2, 2002.

Further information on the Tour can be found on the Internet at www.sanexwta.com

Aug 16th, 2002, 01:45 AM
With Venus Williams's victory in the Wimbledon women's singles championship last week, sister Serena's U.S. Open title in 1999, and the pair teaming up to win the Wimbledon 2000 doubles title as well, these two – now only 18 and 20 years old – could become the most successful siblings in the history of sports. Aside from a few baseball- and football-playing brothers, who else is close? There have been other sisters in big time tennis, Manuela, Katerina and Magdalena Maleeva and Barbara and Kathy Jordan probably being the most notable. But it is the brilliant success on the court by both sisters that sets the Williams apart.

While the tandem's newsworthy wins and lithe beauty would seem to be a marketing bonanza, it is Russian tennis teen pinup Anna Kournikova, who has yet to win much of anything, who reigns as the most popular marketing figure in the game today. It makes you wonder how a pair of blonde, blue-eyed sisters with the success of the Williams sisters would fare in garnering advertisement and endorsement opportunities? Better yet, what would they have to do to fail?

The Williams sisters have signed a number of endorsement deals already; and their commercial success far exceeds that of the last successful African American female tennis star, Zina Garrison. But while watching Wimbledon, and seeing Kournikova in commercial breaks more than Venus and Serena, it was clear that there is much more progress to be made.

Family choice may be one reason the Williams do not have more endorsements. Mindful of overexposure and distractions, their father, the astute Richard Williams, might be steering them away from too much off-court business. But while conscious decisions may have something to do with the Williams's relatively limited marketing exposure, the tennis establishment's attitude towards the sisters may also play a role.

When Venus made her first run at the U.S. Open title in 1997, a Sports Illustrated cover referred to her as a "Party Crasher." In contrast, on the cover of an issue a few months earlier, Pete Sampras was referred to as "An American Classic." These references tell the story. It is the "party crasher" image associated with the Williams family that the tennis and advertising worlds apparently cannot shake; many in the sport still view the sisters from Compton, California, as outsiders, anomalies, gatecrashers.

Commentators have made uneasy reference to the newness of African Americans in this realm of success. And to explain the sisters' success, some analysts have voiced the familiar rationalizations that are often used to account for black athletic achievement. As Venus rolled toward victory over Martina Hingis in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon on the Fourth of July, commentator and former player Chris Evert described the match-up as "the great thinker against the great athlete" – the thinker, of course, being Hingis and the athlete Williams.

Maybe I cringe too easily. I assume there was no ill will on Evert's part. In fact, maybe Venus's game relies more on athleticism than Martina's, but I don't think that's the whole story. As the former all-pro running back Calvin Hill explains, athletic feats are often equivalent to jazz improvisation. "Most good runners know what's happening...The program in your brain takes over. Subconsciously you've probably seen and imagined every situation. But it's work. It's all work. That's hard to see sometimes." Others call that instinct. Bryant Gumbel asked the question appropriately in a 1987 Washington Post interview: "How many times do you listen to an NFL game and every black guy making a catch has ‘blinding speed' and ‘natural talent' but a guy like [the white] Steve Largent is ‘a hard worker who runs intelligent routes'? Every black guy is gifted and every white guy uses his head." Such descriptions are too often made based on the race of the individual.

Zina Garrison described this issue succinctly. "The fact is [Venus and Serena] work so hard for what they got. Sometimes it irritates me to hear about the way they play, or 'They're so powerful,' and everybody forgets about how hard they have to work to get where they are."

The final negative blow in the Wimbledon saga was the undercurrent, again overtly cited as a theory by commentator Evert and reported by such media outlets as USA Today, that there was somehow a Williams family "conspiracy" to allow this victory to be Venus's. The allegation was that Serena already had her Grand Slam title, after all, so it was scripted that Venus would win the semifinal match with her sister Serena – cynical observers apparently feeling that the nervous play and many unforced errors could not result solely from the drama of sister playing sister in a semifinal.

The suspicions were the latest in a long string of attempts to pin something on Richard Williams, whose approach contrasts sharply with that of other well-known tennis fathers. He did not allow his daughters to play junior tennis. He limited the total number of tournaments they entered. Surely, the thinking seemed to go, a black man could not have finally discovered the right way to be a tennis parent; there must be something corrupt in his actions.

Within both the tennis establishment and the advertising world, there is still a hesitation to embrace the Williams sisters. What a shame – the two are attractive, great personalities, trouble free, and at the top of their sport. But even as far as we've come, even with the presence of beautiful dark-skinned women on runways and fashion magazine covers around the world, it is Kournikova (who certainly is exceptional by traditional western standards of beauty) who commands the top endorsement dollars.

In team sports, Michael Jordan extended marketing barriers that had been broken down earlier by O.J. Simpson. Tiger Woods has made further strides in the individual sports realm, but historically golf and tennis have not been venues of marketing success for blacks. Arthur Ashe and Yannick Noah, black male victors in Grand Slam tournaments, had only limited marketing success, and black females have barely made an impact on sports marketing at all. Even in the 1990s, the last black woman to reach the finals at Wimbledon, Zina Garrison, reports that security guards "at first wouldn't let me into the arenas I was playing in, because they didn't believe that someone who looked like me could be a player."

Madison Avenue and the staid tennis world should not be able to hold Venus and Serena back. Just as the security guards finally understood that Garrison belonged at Wimbledon, the tennis establishment and marketers need to understand that the Williams sisters belong in the sport and deserve to be celebrated as the stars they are.


Aug 16th, 2002, 01:47 AM
Simply Super

For Venus Williams, 2000 was when she took command on the tennis court and, more important, of her life off it -- with smashing results in both places

By S.L. Price

She knows what the world thinks. That what happened this year grew out of jealousy. That the fruits of her magnificent summer all grew from a bitter branch, from a public humiliation, from her bruised ego. The public remembers her sitting in the stands during the 1999 U.S. Open final, garbed in black, watching stone-faced as her little sister won the family's first Grand Slam singles tennis title. Wasn't she supposed to be first? It seemed obvious then that something terrible was happening to Venus Williams. When she drifted out of the game last winter and retirement rumors flew, no one was too stunned. Watching Serena that day, Venus had looked like someone attending a wake.

Then, after nearly six months away from the game, Venus returned to action in May and played a few tournaments. Her game ignited. She beat Serena in a semifinal, then won Wimbledon. And kept winning. She won the 2000 U.S. Open. And kept winning. Finally, she won an Olympic gold medal in singles -- giving her 32 straight singles wins, the most impressive run in women's tennis in a decade -- and another gold, with her sister, in doubles. She took apart archrivals Martina Hingis and Lindsay Davenport in London and New York, making them look alternately bewildered and cowed by her sudden mastery. We all thought we knew the reason: Venus wanted to restore her place atop the family order. Seeing Serena win the Open "was a wake-up call for Venus," says their mother, Oracene. "I know she wanted to win a Grand Slam before Serena won another one."

That story line made sense, but for one problem. "That's not what it's all about," Venus says. "I just wanted this for me. Not so I could say: 'I have it now.' Not so I could say: 'Now I have a title; be quiet.' I wanted these titles for me, so in the end I can clap my hands and dust the trophies off because I got the job done. That's all that matters."

It would be easy to scoff at that, to see it as so much spin, except that Venus Williams spent the summer and fall of 2000 proving her words. And even though Venus's spectacular results were reason enough to name her Sports Illustrated for women's Sportswoman of the Year for 2000, there was more. There was the gracious way she acted during her run, the way she carried herself not only as a winner but a champion as well. Where once she'd come off as defensive and cocky, she now revealed herself as thoughtful and at ease. Where once she relished belittling her competition, she now seemed to hold malice toward none. Where once she would blame anything but an opponent when she lost, she now spoke easily about past defeats and credited her rivals. Generosity, calm and maturity are hardly the traits of someone curdled by sibling rivalry, and at 20, Venus appeared more at peace than ever. Nothing anyone could say or do seemed to provoke her.

Many tried. At the U.S. Open, Pete Sampras, whom Venus once admired with Tiger Beat gooeyness, snarkily dismissed her serve, which at 127 mph remains the fastest in the women's game. "I don't think she knows where it's going, to be honest with you," Sampras sniffed. TV commentator John McEnroe spent the Open denigrating Venus and Serena and tried to drum up interest in a Battle of the Sexes showdown; when that didn't work, he popped off in a London newspaper during the Olympics, writing that the two sisters "have no respect for anyone in the game." And, just in time for the Open's final weekend, Davenport revealed that she had formed an ad hoc alliance with Hingis to knock the Williamses out of the tournament.

Such gibes are usually all it takes to start thermonuclear retaliation in the high school world of pro tennis, and in the past Venus rarely hesitated to be drawn in. This time she dismissed it all as nonsense. Eyes fixed firmly on the prize, Venus sailed through the two most prestigious tournaments and the Olympics, making all opposition, on and off the court, seem small. During the Sydney Games, Davenport was forced to withdraw with a foot injury after her first-round match, preempting speculation about how she and Venus would get along as teammates. But after winning the singles crown, Venus declared she had done so "for me, for my country, for my family, for the team." She cried on the medal platform and said, "One of my only regrets is that Lindsay wasn't here."

A year ago such generosity of spirit would have been unthinkable. By the time everyone gathered for the 1999 U.S. Open, Venus's moment seemed to be slipping away. She had yet to duplicate her '97 run to the final at Flushing Meadow, and though a top five player, she still hadn't taken out a top competitor at a Grand Slam tournament. Serena was now the Williams marked for greatness. Tennis experts agreed on the younger sister's superior serve, movement and consistency, and while father Richard kept telling everyone how Serena was going to be better than Venus, mother Oracene kept saying Serena loved the game more. When Venus lost to Hingis in an exhausting three-set thriller in a semifinal, it capped another year when Venus didn't win big.

"I had reached an alltime low," Venus says. "It was a match I just gave away. I said to myself, 'Venus, what more could you do wrong?' I had no other options: It was either stay a mediocre player or move forward."

Yes, Venus says, she was miserable watching Serena win the U.S. Open, but not because little sister had gotten the big prize first. Her misery stemmed from coming face-to-face with herself. She wasn't the player she thought she was. In the months that followed, instead of stewing over her fate or taking it out on Serena, Venus came to understand that she had no one to blame but herself. Serena had seized her moment, but for too long Venus had hung back at the baseline, "expecting people to give matches to me," refusing to use her overwhelming height, power and speed. Never again, she decided. "I always had unbelievable things in my game, and I'm sure my competitors were hoping I never got it together," Venus says. "I just took on a new attitude: I'm going to go for it. I'm going to get the job done. I'm not going to hold back."

Before Venus could put her new mind-set to work, her wrists began to ache from tendinitis. After the Chase Championships last November, Venus stopped playing tennis -- she barely practiced for the next five months -- and spent most of her days in the family office and nights watching TV. "I couldn't type, I couldn't sew, I couldn't drive, at one point I couldn't hit a backhand," she says. "Every time I would try to hit a serve, my whole forearm would just spasm up. I was out of order."

Richard went to the Ericsson Open in Miami last March and announced he wanted Venus to retire. She read this news on the Internet. She had no intention of quitting, and shrugged off the bizarre episode as just the latest in a long line. "My life," she said early on at Wimbledon this year, "has been a saga."

No twist proved more melodramatic than what came next. Venus had played only nine matches all year, yet she blew into the All England Club certain she could become its queen. She'd been supremely confident before, but now her game contained the necessary adjustments: Her forehand was more consistent, her serve more varied. She rushed the net, took the ball in the air, terrorized opponents with a barrage of swing-volleys. She and Serena became the first sisters to play each other on Centre Court since 1884, but their semifinal was painful to see, flattened by the emotional weight of the moment and their relationship. True to her word, Venus didn't back off. Instead, Serena's game sagged, and when Serena double-faulted on match point, Venus gave no hint of satisfaction; she looked, in fact, no happier than she had when she watched Serena win the U.S. Open. Venus put her arm around her sister's shoulders and said, "Let's go, Serena. Let's get out of here."

It was a delicate moment, handled perfectly before an audience of millions, but this wasn't the only time Venus demonstrated her blooming maturity. She had insisted that her father -- not her more low-key mother -- accompany her to London, and credits his coaching for her win. But once given to parroting her dad's every bombastic utterance, at Wimbledon Venus publicly stepped outside his orbit for the first time. Instead of the usual blather about how she and Serena would happily play each other and dominate the game, Venus admitted the experience was "real bitter," and talked openly about the difficult dynamics of such a situation. She insisted that something as meaningless as tennis could never come between them. "The only problem was answering ridiculous questions about whether we'd be friends still," Venus says. "I actually think the match was a good thing, because I didn't celebrate the win at all and I was more calm coming into the final. I just felt like I had one big jump left and all I had to do was make it."

Her straight-set win over Davenport in the final touched off unprecedented jubilation; Venus whirled and screamed, and her dad danced on a broadcast booth. Richard had held up handmade signs throughout, including one that belligerently declared: IT'S VENUS'S PARTY AND NO ONE WAS INVITED! But afterward it was clear the chip had fallen off her shoulder. She claimed to not even see what her dad had written. She also said something remarkable.

"I feel really calm," Venus said. "I love winning Wimbledon, I love playing tennis, I love winning titles. And I realized I wouldn't be any happier in my life in general if I won or lost. Sure, in the tennis part of my life I'd be much happier. But winning, losing, money, riches or fame doesn't make you happy. For my tennis career, this is great. But as far as being Venus, it doesn't really make a huge difference."

Right then, what had happened to Venus this year became quite clear. What had seemed a comeback fueled by jealousy and a sense of entitlement emerged as something else, as a journey from adolescence to adulthood. She had done more than win a string of matches. She had taken losses and learned from them, endured embarrassment and used it to make her better. When, eight weeks later, Venus beat Davenport to win the U.S. Open, she did more than establish herself as the best player in the game. She showed she had no intention of turning back.

This time, in the tumult of the postmatch celebration, Venus extended her hand and walked her dad down onto the court. She hugged him, and he told her how great she was, and then he hopped up and down and did a small dance and pointed at her to do the same. But Venus didn't dance. She stared at her dad, and he stopped dancing and the message was obvious: Venus decides when Venus dances now.

Afterward, when someone asked about the U.S. Open trophy, Venus instantly said that the most wonderful thing was that her name would be engraved next to her sister's. No one dared to argue. After a long, painful, amazing year, Venus had finally arrived.

Aug 16th, 2002, 01:50 AM
The Supremes

Their joint appearance in the first prime-time U.S. Open final--not to mention a run of commericals for fashion and beauty products during the telecast--made it official: Venus and Serena Williams are bigger than the game.

By: Rachel Nichols

"Hey, Venus."

It was a little sister trying to get her big sister's attention, happens all the tmie, has happened to Serena Williams her whole life, but this was a little different, of course. This was the final of the U.S. Open, with more than 23,000 people cheering and Diana Ross singing and fireworks lighting up the sky, and while Serena knew she was supposed to be fierce out there, focusing on the match and not acknowledging her opponent, she couldn't help herself.

She called out again, a little louder this time, cupping her hands over her mouth. The spectacle was simply too enormous to let pass. The two little girls who'd chased each other around the public courts of Compton, Calif., were about to become the first sisters to play in a Grand Slam final in 117 years, the first African-Americans to compete against each other for a major singles title, and the first women to play for the U.S. Open trophy in prime time.

But it was more than that.

With celebrities sprinkling the stands and Venus and Serena's faces filling much of the networks' commerical time all week, a phenomenon that had been gaining strength over the last three years was hitting sensation status. During the next 69 minutes, Venus would romp to a straight-set victory, and it didn't seem to matter in the slightest. Just by virtue of the occasion, the Williams Era had officially been declared, and as Serena finally caught her big sisters's eye and offered a triumphant thumbs-up amid the homage, more than merely the sports world was taking notice.

"They are just flat-out stars," says the singer Brandy, who was in the Williams family box for several of their Open matches. Spike Lee, Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert Redford, NFL Hall of Famer Joe Namath, hip-hop mogul Sean "P Diddy" Combs, and a host of others all sat in Arthur Ashe Stadium, similarly transfixed, as was a large part of the nation.

The evening's CBS broadcast drew 22.7 million people--the biggest audience of any program that night, and nearly double that of the Nebraska-Notre Dame football game on ABC. Former pro Pam Shriver tried to think of other players who could cause such a commotion, and she kept coming up blank. "They're more well-known to the average person than Pete Sampras or certainly any of the other women right now, and they're only 19, 21 years old," she said of Serena and Venus, respectively. "Right now, Andre Agassi is the only one I see even giving them a run in terms of who the non-sports public identifies with, and even that's shifting.

"This is whay any sport wants. It's the Tiger Woods effect. They're not just transcending their sport, but transcending all sports, and it's a very powerful phenomenon."

During the first week of the OPen, Venus and Serena made the cover of Timemagazine. They have also graced the front of Elle[/i, appeared on "The Tonight Show," and been immortalized on an episode of [i]The Simpsons.

In a celebrity culture where one-name wonders are becoming even more common, Venus and Serena seem to be rising above the pack, their images and voices suddenly everywhere. Need something to wear? Venus has designed her own line of clothes for Wilson's Leather and will be happy to model them for you on TV. Want makeup and skin-care products? Check out the sisters' stunning Avon commerical. Want some chewing gum? The Williamses are pleased to offer you a pack of Doublemint.

If Michael Jordan cut the path for this kind of fame and endorsement capability in the 1980s and Woods paved it in the late 1990s, then the Williams sisters are now rolling over it at breakneck speed.

"I'm always rooting for them obessively in matches," says Simpsons co-executive producer Ian Maxtone-Graham. "I was watching Serena play Martina Hingis on television a while back, and I got so nervous for Serena that I just couldn't watch anymore. I had to turn it off."

Like Tiger, the sisters are helped by playing an individual sport with global reach. Fans in Asia, Europe, and the U.S. can see them play in person, and their success is never impeded by a team's or teammate's failings.

They also share Tiger's infiltration of a sport that has never been considered particularly hospitable to minorities, allowing their journey to the apex to take on a sweeping importance. If they're popular among the general public, they're outright heroines in the African-American community, especially among women. At Wimbledon 2000, Dionne Warwick serenaded Venus with a round of "That's What Friends Are For." At a taping of Hollywood Squares the same year, Whoopi Goldberg walking onto the set and started bowing toward her and Serena.

"Venus and I are both black in a predominantly while sport," Serena says, boiling it down. "We're doing so well, and while there were other successful black players before us, it was a short list, and none of them were sisters, so we're just a totally different story. It's also pretty interesting ebcause most parents try to raise just one champion. Our parents raised two."

The double-your-pleasure aspect of the Williamses' success was an obvious fit for Wrigley's chewing gum, and it's also what attracted Avon, which had never affiliated itself with an athlete pitchperson, much less two. According to Avon's vice president of advertising Janice Spector, the company decided to integrate Venus and Serena into it's "Let's Talk" campaign because it identified them as "young, active, vibrant, beautiful women" as opposed to mere athletes. In the spot, they're dressed in ball gowns and beach clothes, in striking matchup and flowing hairstyles.

"This was an opportunity to show another side of Venus and Serena to the world," Spector says, and if the reaction the Williamses evoked while filming the ad was any indication, the world likes what it has been seeing. "We were shooting in this not particularly nice section of Miami. They're in these fabulous ball gowns, and people in their cars whizzing by are just screaming. They're yelling, 'Hey sister, hey Venus, hey Serena,' and they're absolutely loving them."

In one of Venus' ads for Reebok, she looks more Audrey Hepburn than Althea Gibson, twirling around high-society digs in kid gloves and a wide-brimmed hat. One of the Doublemint billboards shows only Venus' and Serena's faces, surrounded by mint leaves--no names, no explanations, no descriptions required.

"We were at the Teen Choice Awards a year or so ago," Venus says, "and people were kind of going crazy, and my sister Isha just turned to me and said, 'Wow, I didn't know you were this famous.' It was kind of cool. I think that's when we realized we were really transcending the lines of tennis."

The Williamses' sashay into a world beyond the court is no coincidence, of course. IMG, which manages the sisters, decided about 18 months ago to make a targeted push to expand their appeal, with agent Stephaine Tolleson contacting several major non-sport companies. While some people were skeptical, the Williamses' jump-off-the-page personalities, and their obvious interest in fashion (both have attended the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, in Florida) eventually turned some heads.

It didn't hurt matters when last December, Reebok signed Venus to an endorsement deal reportedly worth $40 million over five years, the richest contract ever for a female athlete.

"Celebrity is worth a lot of money in this country, and there aren't many people who are true celebrities," says the Women's Sports Foundation's Donna Lopiano. "Venus' contract meant a lot for women. It also meant a lot for Venus. People notice numbers like that. They make them think of you differently. She and Serena are probably the Madonnas of women's sports right now, and now that they've splashed across the scene, it looks like they're here to stay."

Not even controversy seems likely to slow the Williamses' orbit. Last spring, a tabloid story accused them of fixing Venus' straight-set victory over Serena at the 2000 Wimbledon. Around the same time, the sisters were also facing criticism for Venus' last-minute default in a semifinal match against Serena at Indian Wells, Calif., and for their father Richard's subsequent accusations of racism among tennis fans. Yet despite a slate of media condemnation, the storm dissipated within a month, ad by the time the sisters faced each other at Flushing Meadows, the idea of the match being fixed seem preposterous.

In fact, by the time the women's final rolled around, the only question appeared to by just how much hype Venus and Serena could handle. As Serena proffered her excited thumbs-up to her sister at courtside, the swirl of anticipation had reached such a fevered pitch, even the jet planes cruising overhead seemed intent on taking a peek inside the stadium.

"Hey, if I knew something so historical was going to happen, I wouldn't have missed it either," Serena said later, smiling at what she and her sister had created. "If I wasn't playing, I definitely would have tried to make it myself. I didn't really think that [the fans] would want to watch little me play tennis. But I guess we're really exciting. And I'm flattered."

Aug 16th, 2002, 01:52 AM
Navratilova: Venus Is The True No. 1

By Richard Pagliaro

Three different women held the No. 1 ranking during the 2001 season, but as far as former No. 1 Martina Navratilova is concerned only one player — Venus Williams — deserves the title as tennis' true No. 1

In a conference call with the media today to promote her exhibition match against Monica Seles scheduled for Saturday at the Mohegan Sun Arena, Navratilova said that despite her No. 3 ranking, Venus is clearly tennis' top player.

"I think there's no question that Venus Williams should be No. 1," Navratilova said. "The reason she was not No. 1 is they're taking the best (results) of 18 tournaments and I think that's too many. That's why you see people getting hurt — they're playing more than they want to play. How many tournaments does one need to play to be considered a bona fide contender for the No. 1 ranking. Is it 12? Is it 18? Is it 20? I don't know. But I don't think it's 18; I think it's less than that. So Venus was hurt by the way the ranking system works."

The owner of 18 Grand Slam singles titles, Navratilova believes the current ranking system places too much emphasis on the quantity of tournaments played rather than the qualify of a player's performance at tournaments.

"If we had the same computer ranking system we had 10 years ago, Venus Williams would have been No. 1, Jennifer Capriati would have been No. 2, Lindsay Davenport would have been No. 3 and Martina Hingis would have been No. 4," Navratilova said. "You see that (the current rankings) and you know the ranking does not reflect the proper performance. Right now, we're weighing too much on quantity and not quality and that's the bottom line."

Only nine women — Chris Evert, Navratilova, Tracy Austin, Monica Seles, Steffi Graf, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Hingis, Davenport and Capriati — have held the WTA Tour's top spot since the computer rankings began. Navratilova suggests the premier position has lost a bit of its luster because the players believe the ranking system is an invalid and inaccurate measurement of player performance.

"Right now we know the computer system is not correct," Navratilova said. "That's why Lindsay was downplaying the fact that she ended up No. 1 — because she knows deep down she was not No. 1 for the year. They're revamping it, but I don't think they're going quite far enough in revamping it."

Part of the proposed plan to review the ranking system includes assigning more ranking points to Grand Slam events. This year, two players — Capriati and Williams — split the four Grand Slams with Capriati capturing the Australian and French Open titles and Williams winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Though they were the only Grand Slam champions both were surpassed in the year-end rankings by Davenport, who failed to reach a Grand Slam final.

Seles said players seem divided on the subject of adding more value to the Grand Slam events, but she believes Grand Slam results should matter more in the rankings and i's willing to reserve judgment until the new ranking system is in place for a year.

"In terms of (points) rankings of Grand Slams, I think it depends upon who you talk to," Seles said. "One person thinks that is not easy to play consistently good tennis from January 1st to December 31st and the other one is obviously winning the Grand Slams. I think the tour looked into that and made adjustments for 2002 and we'll see how it works. It's difficult because you see so many injuries this year on the tour. Half of the players have been hurt during parts of the year and that hurts the tour. You'd have to almost triple the (ranking) points (for Grand Slams) because already in Grand Slams I think the points are double. We'll see how it works in 2002 — giving the Grand Slams even more (ranking) points — which I think rightly they deserve."

While acknowledging the importance of the Grand Slams, Navratilova said that increasing the value of Grand Slams in the rankings could devalue Tier events and ultimately weaken the Tour.

"We need to remember it's the tour that supports the game — not the Grand Slams," Navratilova said. "So I wouldn't want to see the de-emphasizing of the points on the tour or emphasizing further the points of the Grand Slams."

Aug 16th, 2002, 02:03 AM
Venus revels in service with a smack

Richard Jago
Monday July 9, 2001
The Guardian

Venus Williams had to overcome a rare bit of sisterly pressure, as well the new sensation of the women's game and the most one-sided crowd since Britain's Virginia Wade won the title 24 years ago yesterday. It was as though the 6-1, 3-6, 6-0 victory against Justine Henin that completed the defence of her title had been achieved by a different character from the one who last year won so flamboyantly against the odds.

Then, Williams received uproarious acclaim for a leaping celebration as spectacular as a Sadler's Wells solo. This time her response to her triumph was muted and the jumping was omitted, the champion said, in case she slipped on a rain-affected court.

Missing too was her younger sister Serena, who telephoned to say, "Bring the title home", and just about the only familiar emotion was the eccentric enthusiasm of her father Richard, calling loudly from a balcony for his daughter to pose while he whirred the camcorder which has been his inseparable partner for a fortnight.

By contrast he and his wife Oracene, from whom he has separated since last year, sat three seats apart. And the centre court crowd seemed to have lost their love for Venus. They booed when Cyclops failed to call a lengthy serve a fault, jeered the umpire when he asked them to be quiet, screeched when her 19-year-old opponent proved she could hold her own in a rally, and faded to a disgruntled murmur when the underdog went an early break down.

It was insensitive to the champion's feelings but the little Belgian looked as though she needed all the help she could get. Henin was seven inches shorter, three stone lighter and 10 grand slams less experienced; her sinewy 5ft 5in looked a bully's mismatch alongside the muscular 160-pounder opposite her.

Indeed, Henin's assertion that "the three-quarters of an inch were very important" had been more than a joke. She had been trying to become the shortest Wimbledon champion since Billie Jean King in the 1960s and the most surprising since Little Mo (Maureen Connolly) in the 50s.

Henin, who had not won a match at Wimbledon until this year, had won three times in this tournament after wonderful comebacks. But there were only two short periods in the final when it seemed possible she could do it again.

These occurred either side of a 20-minute rain delay. Henin had just escaped from a tight corner to hang on to her serve and lead 3-2 and it seemed the break might halt her momentum. Against Jennifer Capriati during a break in play, she had lost her way trying to get back on court, but this time she was oriented and eager, and began to hit with astonishing penetration from both wings.

She did so with the force of a hissing whiplash and for four exhilarating games it seemed it might supersede the power of the rasping bludgeon. Venus had to work to get back to 3-3 and in her next service game she was edgy and she was broken. Once she double-faulted, twice she missed with backhands and once Henin made a great attack at the net.

It was something Henin might have tried more often. But once she had consolidated the break and served out for the set she was unable to summon the same assertiveness. The memory of a couple of thunderous passing shots from the first set stayed with her and the force of Williams' serve was frightening.

It was the shot that won her the title. Whenever the hurtling first serve went in, Williams won a remarkable 86% of the points. Twenty of them came from unreturned deliveries and in the final set she lost not a single point from it. "It was quite unbelievable," said Henin. "It is fast and has a lot of precision. When you have all this pressure against you it can break you."

Despite that Henin, up from 100 a year ago to No5 in today's world rankings, showed herself a player to resist one- dimensional trends. Lower slung, more manoeuvrable and varied, her one-handed style stands out like a revival of the traditional game. With a little more strength and experience her natural timing, steady mind and refreshing ability to adapt could bring the big guns down one day.

"It's still another level [to do that]," she said. "But I have the game. Size does not matter. I really believe it."

Williams' win equalled the achievement of Althea Gibson in the 1950s, the last black American to win Wimbledon twice. Asked what that meant, she answered: "I was just trying to make my own success."

And what about having to deal with a crowd rooting for the opposition? "You know, I've had a lot of experiences like that with the crowd," she said. "Doesn't seem that often, you know, I am the player that the crowds want to win. But for me that is not as important. The thing is I want to win - and who knows, there may be a day when they will root for me."

When it was all over, they did. Yes, winning this Wimbledon meant more than the last, she said, surprising many, because she had had to work harder from the start to achieve it. "Last year I was like a deer in the headlights; I just kept going," she said. "But this time I thought a lot more." And no, she had no one to take to the Wimbledon ball. "I'm on the market," she said, making the crowd laugh.

"And if you are watching, Serena, I love you," she added, and with that she won them all. Venus didn't capture hearts with her deeds, but she warmed them with her

Aug 16th, 2002, 02:05 AM
Champion Venus shows true star quality
Stephen Bierley
Monday September 10, 2001
The Guardian

If the television companies and the marketing men could have their dollar-devouring way, they would surely now scrap the women's tournament at the US Open and, instead, play an annual best-of-seven World Series between the Williams sisters. Hingis, Schmingis. All the rest are an irrelevance.

At least that was what it felt like here on Saturday evening as prime-time television, for the first time in the history of the US Open, snaffled up the all-Williams final and turned it into something resembling the sister of the Super Bowl.

"God bless America," warbled Diana Ross, as fireworks cascaded into the New York skies. The multimillionaire Donald Trump, surrounded by his wives, beamed down from his royal box, as Robert Redford and other assorted celebs eased back in their chairs and waited for the cameras to roll.

Somehow, and rather remarkably, a sporting occasion that had started the fortnight as an international event and ended as a parochial jamboree, somehow survived. And it did so because Venus the elder categorically established herself as the best women's player in the world by defeating Jennifer Capriati, this year's Australian and French Open champion, in the semi-finals, and then trouncing her sister Serena, seeded No10, to retain the title in straight sets.

The computer rankings will continue to show this morning that Venus is the world No4, behind Switzerland's Martina Hingis, Capriati and Lindsay Davenport. This is nonsense. Any system that rewards consistency at bread-and-butter level over excellence at the four grand slams is clearly flawed. Hingis has not won a major title since the 1999 Australian, and clearly cannot be considered by anybody in their right mind as the best player in the world.

Not only was Venus's 6-2, 6-4 victory over Serena a personal triumph - and this was her fourth triumph in the last six grand slam tournaments - it was also a victory for the game. Such has been the suspicion, doubt and disquiet surrounding the sisters that, had Serena prevailed by playing anything other than devastating tennis, the tongues would have continued to wag furiously.

Indeed, after Venus had established a 6-2, 2-0 lead and then somewhat limply lost her serve to allow Serena to level at 2-2, the commentator Mary Carrilo was moved to remark that "this is why people have become suspicious when the sisters play each other".

Suspicion is one thing, proof another. On this occasion Venus's mid-set lapse was surely because she felt a little sorry for her younger sister, whose game was strewn with unforced errors.

If Venus did momentarily take her foot off the pedal it was not for long. Two double faults by Serena in the ninth game opened up space for the kill, and Venus duly went for the throat, as all champions do. Serena tossed her racket away and made for the net where the two embraced.

"I love you," Venus whispered in her ear, and later told the 23,000 crowd: "There are some good things and bad things. I always want Serena to win. I'm the bigger sister. I'm the one who takes care of her. I make sure she has everything even if I don't. It's hard."

As she spoke Serena nudged Venus and mouthed: "Don't Venus. You're making me cry." And if this was all rather too Little House on the Prairie for European tastes, it was quintessentially American, and gobbled up like cherry pie.

Quite how Serena will view it all in the months ahead is another matter. Since winning this title as a 17-year-old two years ago, defeating Hingis, she has slipped well behind Venus, who has since won Wimbledon and the US Open twice. "They feed off each other," said their mother Oracene, although she admitted that for most of this year, prior to the US Open, Serena had "been out having fun".

By winning her fourth slam title, Venus has edged beyond Davenport (three) and is now just behind Hingis (five). Venus clearly has the potential to win many more. Indeed when both sisters are fully focused, as was pretty much the case during the last fortnight, there are very few players who can trouble them.

"I think the night is another one to cherish," said Billie Jean King, who won 12 grand slam singles titles, four in the US, and helped found the professional Women's Tennis Association 30 years ago after a major fight for recognition. "Venus and Serena are providing another benchmark for women's sports. I was thinking about 1973, and how women couldn't even get a credit card back then. Can you imagine Serena and Venus without a credit card ?"

Venus earned $850,000 (£600,000) for winning and Serena $450,000 as runner-up. There is no doubt the sisters have changed the face of modern women's tennis. "We've all worked hard and I feel we deserve it - and the sport does too," said Venus who, like Serena, had clearly gone out of her way to conduct herself with greater restraint and with more generosity towards her opponents here.

No doubt they were much chastened by the hostile reception they received at Indian Wells, California, earlier this year when Venus pulled out of her semi-final against Serena minutes before the start. The Williams are nobody's fools on either the playing or the commercial front, and Indian Wells was a huge and surprising error of judgment.

Ultimately this was neither a good US Open final nor a good women's tournament, for there were very few matches of genuine quality or excitement. However, it lifted Venus Williams a little closer to the game's greats, and allowed America to wallow in self-congratulatory schmaltz. Nobody does it better. Or worse.

Aug 18th, 2002, 09:00 PM
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/features/cover/news/2000/08/25/flashback_willia ms5/index.html

By S.L. Price Issue date: May 31, 1999

Call Richard Williams what you want -- bizarre, deceitful or, perhaps, mad -- but be sure of one thing: He has brilliantly guided the careers and lives of his daughters Venus and Serena, the hottest players in tennis

The Hollywood producer has seen them come and go over the last 24 years: blowhards and egomaniacs and self-deluding hacks, wunderkinds and wondrous talents and a staggering parade of frauds. He has clashed with Oliver Stone, launched Julia Roberts, survived Barbra Streisand. The Hollywood producer reads people for a living. He has become very rich. He met Richard Williams -- father, coach and manager of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams -- late in 1997, after having bought a big chunk of the Puma sneaker and apparel company and deciding to pursue an endorsement deal with Serena. The two men began to talk. Then they began to negotiate. The Hollywood producer had rarely been so confounded.

"You know when you meet somebody, and you think he's either insane or he's a genius?" says the producer, Arnon Milchan, founder of New Regency Productions. "But if he's insane, he's still fascinating, because you've never seen somebody so crazy in that way? You say, 'It's probably impossible, but this guy looks like he's in good faith.' What he's saying you've never heard before.

"He's saying, 'I knew. I was planning this before the girls were born.' That's like I would tell you that I knew Pretty Woman would exist before it was a script, and that it would be a great script, and I knew I was going to discover Julia Roberts, and she was going to be Number 1. In my world if I say those things, somebody will say, 'What mushrooms did Arnon take?'"

Forgive Milchan his discombobulation. It's 4:30 a.m., the mid-May morning just beginning to break over the Mediterranean. Milchan is staying in the French town of Antibes while attending the 52nd Cannes International Film Festival, and he needs his rest. Today two of his megabudget films premiere, Entrapment at Cannes and William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream in the U.S. But jet lag and the recent screen tests Milchan arranged for Venus and Serena have him babbling at high speed.

When he sat across his desk from Richard Dove Williams that day a year and a half ago, Milchan faced a cotton picker's son who had dropped out of high school at 16; raised his family in the gangland jungle of Compton, Calif.; taught himself tennis; felt beyond reason that his girls would be great at the sport; and gambled plenty of money that he was right. Serena was ranked 99th in the world then, but Richard -- against the advice of his closest advisers -- kept bending the bargaining away from a big payment up front and toward huge incentive payoffs when, not if, Serena cracked the Top 10, the Top 5, the top spot at last.

Milchan, a man who's estimated to be worth more than some movie studios, didn't understand. How could this man have such confidence? What about the unknown? What about injuries? "Then you think, Wait a minute, where's the upside for him if he's lying?" Milchan says. "There's no upside. So there are only two possibilities: Either he's totally crazy -- but that's impossible, because there's something totally sane and healthy about his family -- or he knows something I don't."

Milchan has never found out all that Richard Williams knows. He sees only what everyone else has seen this spring: After years of hype and hope and controversy, Venus and Serena Williams have become the hottest players -- male or female -- in tennis, an unprecedented sister act that threatens to overwhelm the sport with power, athleticism and in-your-face attitude. Already this year 18-year-old Venus and 17-year-old Serena have met in a historic final (at the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla., on March 28), won WTA tournaments on the same day (Venus the IGA Superthrift Tennis Classic in Oklahoma City and Serena the Open Gaz de France in Paris on Feb. 28) and, with six tournament wins between them (four for fifth-ranked Venus and two for No. 10 Serena), begun to crowd No. 1 Martina Hingis atop the money list like a pair of bullies plotting to take her milk money. "They're the strongest opponents on tour," Hingis says.

"I wasn't expecting them so fast, you know?" says 19th-ranked Irina Spirlea, who infamously bumped Venus during a changeover at the 1997 U.S. Open, beat Serena on the same court a year later and was manhandled 6-2, 6-3 by Serena three weeks ago at the Italian Open in Rome. "Sometimes I'm in awe. They have something the others don't have."

And, boy, do they know it. Now that their braces have been removed, Venus and Serena have taken off the gloves as well, vowing to make the French Open and Wimbledon singles trophies family property. Serena, who is in just her second year on tour -- and is still looking to advance past the fourth round in the singles of a Grand Slam -- blithely predicts that she will win at the All-England Club in July. "I can see myself lifting that plate for sure," she says. "I just can't see it not happening."

To which Venus, who has only been to one Slam final, at the 1997 U.S. Open, responds, "If she's going to take Wimbledon, I have to take the French. That's how I feel."

That both girls deliver such mind-bending pronouncements while alternately giggling and glowering is part of their charm. "They bring life to the game, a different dimension to the game," says Bruce Schilling, director of U.S. sports marketing for Nike. "Tennis is a finite world. They expand the boundaries, and that is -- uh, would have been -- good for us."

Forgive Schilling his disappointment. Nike lost out to Puma in the bidding for Serena 16 months ago -- just as it lost out when Reebok signed Venus in May 1995 -- but how was Schilling or anyone else at Nike to know that a big sneaker deal wouldn't be mega enough for Richard Williams? Richard is predicting that his girls will be "bigger than Michael Jordan," and who better than a movie mogul to set his crossover conquest in motion?

On April 15 Serena cracked the Top 10 for the first time, tilting the deal Richard struck with Milchan in Serena's favor to the tune of $2.5 million a year for the remainder of the five-year contract. "Now we're paying a ton of money to Serena, and we love it!" says Milchan, who also owns the WTA's international television rights. Better yet, after Venus's and Serena's screen tests last March, Milchan is convinced that the Williamses "have the goods" to be multimedia stars, players in movies or TV sitcoms. "The camera loves them," Milchan says, "and the incredible thing is, they're not even 20 years old."

Yesterday's fool is driving 90 mph with no hands. His left thigh is wedged under the steering wheel of the black Mercedes ML320, and with the slightest nudge Richard Williams makes the SUV glide from lane to lane. His large hands flutter about, juggling two constantly chirping cellular phones and a rumpled green pack of cigarillos. It's 8:20 on the morning of April 27, and the sun is beginning to sizzle on I-95 outside Jupiter, Fla. Serena is on one of the three courts back at the family house in Palm Beach Gardens, practicing on clay. Venus and her mother, Oracene, are in Hamburg for a tournament. Richard is rocketing north to Fort Pierce to give what he calls a "motivational speech" to administrators at an elementary school. He's 57 years old. Even while he squints against the harsh light, his eyes glitter like precious stones.

Sep 17th, 2002, 01:26 AM
Venus above all else
Source: San Francisco Chronicle

AS SHE left the court behind the regal Venus Williams last night, carrying a bag that seemed a bit large for her frame, Kristina
Brandi struck the look of a caddy. It was just another night on the women's tour, a perfectly fine tennis player reduced to ashes.

Williams hit the Bank of the West Classic in all her glory, crushing the ball without mercy and making a lime-green outfit look
like the only sensible choice. The Stanford event marks her first tour appearance since Wimbledon, and not much has changed.
Talent, icy demeanor, guts under pressure -- all the things we used to say about Margaret Court, Chris Evert and Steffi Graf -- fit
nicely into every Venus critique these days.

She was talking about her goals in tennis last night, after her 6- 4, 6-3 conquest of Brandi, saying that despite two Wimbledon
titles and her U.S. Open championship, "There's a lot I haven't done. I haven't been No. 1 in the world. I haven't won the French
Open or the Australian. I haven't really been around that long."

That's hardly the feeling among Bay Area tennis insiders. To them, Venus has been around forever, and they've watched her grow
up, from the 14-year-old kid making her pro debut at the Oakland Coliseum Arena in 1994 to the most feared player, rankings be
damned, in the world.

The maturation process has been remarkable, to the point where Venus' act -- both off and on the court -- is unassailable. People
take potshots at her father, and sister Serena's injury-tormented slump has been cruelly questioned by both the media and other players on tour, but Venus is the very definition of an evolved personality. She was cranky and temperamental in her first Wimbledon, back in '97, and now you couldn't bother her if you fired a round of shotgun blasts from behind the service line.

When a certain lineswoman called no less than six foot-faults on Venus last night, there was a steely calm. During a rash of
unforced errors in the second set, her expression never changed. She allowed herself two glimpses of emotion: A smile to the
crowd after she won an electrifying point for 5-2 in the first set, and a quick little dance -- not unlike her Wimbledon celebration
this year -- when the match was over.

In a brief postmatch press conference, she often flashed that smile that says, "I know a few things you don't, and I'd rather keep
them to myself." But she did admit, "You know, this is a great job. Every now and then I reflect on it, and I really like being a
professional tennis player. This is good."

For fans of women's tennis, there can't be a better bargain than the two-court setup at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Stadium.
There was a bit of magic in the air around dusk as Williams and the engaging Kim Clijsters played their matches side-by-side,
separated only by a 3-foot partition, to the backdrop of a pink-and-turquoise sky.

"I must say it can be distracting," Williams said, "if you're playing next to an interesting match and it gets a little too interesting, and everyone wants to watch that." Such was the case last night, as Clijsters was taken to a third set by Cara Black, but for anyone sitting in Williams' half of the facility, there was only one show. Would her serves reach 120 mph? Can you ever get enough of that wicked cross-court backhand, or her incredible court coverage? Can you believe how she takes short shots out of the air with that looping, topspin forehand?

Everything about Venus is distinctive, and at the top of the list we'll put her hairstyle. More specifically, she has one. White
baseball caps are all the rage now; the entire women's tour has turned into Patty ****. All three of the other players wore
them last night, undoubtedly cashing in on endorsement money but unwittingly stripping themselves of style or individuality. Can
you imagine a hat on Evert, Graf or Martina Navratilova? No chance -- and no hat for Venus.

There is one old-style element to this tournament, and that is the inevitability of the final matchup. It wasn't so bad when that
meant Evert-Navratilova, and Williams-Lindsay Davenport sounds pretty good, too. Not to demean the chances of Monica Seles
or Meghann Shaughnessy, a player who should be seen while she's here (Shaughnessy plays Venus in today's afternoon session), but the prospects look good for Williams and Davenport contesting this final for the fourth consecutive year.

It means critical stylistic differences. It means a bit of intrigue, since Davenport has been clearly and publicly put off by both
Richard and Serena Williams. Based on recent developments, it means the smart money leaning toward Venus.

Oct 6th, 2002, 10:34 AM

February 25, 2002

Lisa Dillman:
On Tennis

Minority of One
Her ascent to No. 1 finally realized, Venus Williams definitely followed her own path.

Computer wisdom finally caught up with conventional wisdom in women's tennis today.

This is why the news that Venus Williams officially became No. 1 isn't more of a blockbuster announcement. If you walked into any sports bar last week--managing to pull fans away from curling and hockey--and quizzed people about the top-ranked player in the world, undoubtedly, the answer would have been Williams, not Jennifer Capriati.

Surely, hadn't Williams been No. 1 already after winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open the last two years? And, if not, why had it taken so long? The computer is the partial culprit, much-maligned and all, but of course, not as much as Olympic figure skating judges or the bowl championship series. It artificially propped up Martina Hingis, who benefited by playing more and winning smaller, less prestigious events. Even Lindsay Davenport seemed slightly embarrassed by finishing last year ranked No. 1, admitting Williams was the true top player.

Williams, too, had something to do with the strangeness. She played a limited schedule last year, and no events after the U.S. Open because of the terrorist attacks and an injured wrist.

Just as quixotically, she took a different approach in 2002. Having been criticized for playing too little, she flipped that notion and has been in five tournaments the first eight weeks of the year.

Williams left her Florida home on Dec. 27 for Australia and has been on the road since, starting at Gold Coast, Queensland, winding through Paris and Antwerp, Belgium, and finishing in Dubai.

Call it coincidence or providence, but, in a larger sense, the timing couldn't have worked out better. Williams has become the first African-American, male or female, to be ranked No. 1 by their professional tennis association. Arthur Ashe reached No. 2 on the ATP's computer rankings in 1975, and Althea Gibson was ranked No. 1 in 1957 by a world panel, long before the WTA computer rankings started in 1975.

The historic moment arrived near the end of February, Black History Month. It came two days after another African-American player, Alexandra Stevenson--a childhood friend of Williams from their Southern California days--reached the tour final in Memphis, losing to Lisa Raymond. And it dawned only a day after another African-American, James Blake, played in the Memphis final against his Davis Cup teammate, Andy Roddick, also losing.

There were more than thoughts of Ashe and Gibson when Williams spoke about her latest accomplishment on a ragged phone line on Saturday from Dubai. An associate of Gibson's got on the conference call, warmly congratulated Williams, and said that Gibson wanted to personally offer kudos but was unable to do so.

"It would be foolish to forget Althea Gibson," Williams said. "She was the first. And more than anything, I just feel proud to represent America in my sport."

The dream--of winning Grand Slams and reaching No. 1--was not hers at the start. Richard Williams, her father, had the notion first when Venus and her younger sister Serena were growing up in Compton. He boldly predicted Venus would become No. 1. He even said Serena would be better than Venus, which did happen, briefly, when Serena won the U.S. Open in 1999.

"I thought he was telling the truth," Venus said of the No. 1 prediction. "I was just being the daughter of a proud father. And more than anything, I think he knew he put the work in and that we were listening to him, and I think that's why he had that confidence to say that myself and Serena would be Grand Slam champions.

"Right now, we are some of the best players in the game, I guess, in history, and I just think that I give a lot of credit to my dad for that."

Her mother and coach, Oracene, should receive just as much credit. She has been with her daughter since the start of this final determined charge toward No. 1. Increasingly, Williams has taken charge of her career as she has matured. At the Australian Open, she played through the pain of an injured knee, hinting she didn't consult her parents, and fought her way to the quarterfinals though hampered, losing to a resurgent Monica Seles.

Behind the scenes, she found support from her Italian boyfriend, Davide, who was with her in Australia as well as the European stretch and final stop in Dubai. It hasn't been easy. She played three consecutive weeks, the first time she had done so since October 1998.

In the Paris final, Williams defeated local favorite Amelie Mauresmo and took on another local favorite, Justine Henin, a week later in the Antwerp final. Williams has won three titles this year and lost in the semifinals to Sandrine Testud of France on Friday in Dubai.

"I did intend to be on the road," said Williams, who added the Antwerp tournament when she realized how close she was to No. 1. "I gave my full commitment for the first two months of the year. I knew it would be really tough, and mentally I've prepared to not be at home. But I really miss my dog ... and I miss Serena too. I miss the States more than anything. I haven't really had a chance to watch the Olympics, so I missed out on a few things."

Lately, the reigns at No. 1 have been short. Williams is the fourth player in the last five months to reach No. 1. Capriati, Davenport and Hingis are the others. Williams and her sister Serena will not be playing at Indian Wells next week, not surprising after last year's controversy, in which they were booed by the crowd. Venus pulled out of a scheduled semifinal against Serena because of an injury.

"Well, all in all, it was just basically an incredible scene last year in Indian Wells, but that's part of sports, playing with the good and the bad," Venus said.

Whether she is passed by Capriati this week in Scottsdale or by not playing at Indian Wells, Williams doesn't appear overly concerned. She reached No. 1 her special way, and why be any different now?

"I think the best part is that I've enjoyed myself along the way and that I have not limited myself just to playing tennis or made myself believe that that's the only thing in life," she said. "I've always been doing things at the same time and having a career; for me that's the best part."

Oct 6th, 2002, 10:36 AM
Venus Goes Double Time
The Hartford Courant
August 25, 2001

NEW HAVEN - The sun-splashed afternoon melted into a sticky tennis night and Venus Williams refused to leave. She took the Pilot Pen on her sloping shoulders, carried a tournament through a difficult day and, in the end, had presented Connecticut with an effort worth savoring.

This is not Wimbledon. This is not the U.S. Open. This is the WTA Tour stop leading into our national championship. Williams obviously did not make history Friday. She did not define her career, but she may have defined her career commitment, at least to this tiny corner of the world directly northeast of Flushing Meadows.

For the first time in her professional life, Williams was faced with two singles matches in one day. Although it isn't a unique situation - Monica Seles faced it just last week in Toronto - it was a demanding one, especially given the quality of opposition so late in a tournament.

Rain on Thursday forced Williams into a doubleheader. A thigh injury to Brussels Sprout I, Kim Clijsters, gave Lindsay Davenport a free pass into the final and forced Venus to be the entire show.

"We closed the doors to the WTA office, Kim looked at me and her eyes were brimmed with tears," tournament director Anne Worcester said. "It was the first default of her career."

No fault, however, can be found with Williams. First up was a rematch of the Wimbledon final against Brussels Sprout II, Justine Henin. After Williams had outlasted the Belgian, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 in a quarterfinal struggle that required 2 hours, 6 minutes to complete, she had less than four hours to prepare for a semifinal match against Jennifer Capriati.

Would she be Ernie Banks? Or Venus Tanks? Would Williams smile and say let's play two? Or would she grab her sore lower back, grab her taped wrist, say so sorry, and take a hike out of this logistical mess? Excuses would have been so easy to make.

"Normally, you don't want to play like this," Williams said after a victory over Henin pockmarked by a second-set collapse. "It's not a normal circumstance. It's unfortunate, but it has to be done."

Williams wasn't smiling at 3:15 p.m, but she wasn't leaving either. The two-time defending Pilot Pen champion hadn't expected ample time to sleep, but afterward she said had been able to slip in a catnap. She iced down. She ate. She stretched her long, powerful muscles and it's no stretch to say Venus showed us plenty on this long workday.

"You've got to expect the unexpected in professional tennis and I'm a professional," Williams said after she defeated Capriati 6-4, 7-6 at the Connecticut Tennis Center. "I've got to be ready for everything.

"Maybe it will hit me tonight, but I'm just riding on a high."

This time, Venus was smiling. Big time.

"Venus has become the icon of this tournament," Worcester said.

The Big Top hasn't hung over Venus' head this week. Wacky Daddy has stayed home. Richard Williams isn't here to threaten to buy Rockefeller Center. He isn't here to call for the U.S. Open to be moved to Compton or explain his version of the history of man. Sanity has prevailed and, in the process, Venus has been allowed to let her perspiration overshadow Richard's, ahem, inspiration.

Williams played 52 games on this day, not including the 7-1 tiebreaker against Capriati. By the time her long day ended shortly before 9 p.m., she insisted she wasn't tired, and she certainly didn't retire. Isn't that always the buzz? Venus, 21, is going to leave the sport this year, next year or the year after that? Richard is always starting some bonfire and the tabloids are only to willing to keep it burning.

Richard ordered Serena to tank the 2000 Wimbledon semis so Venus could win her first major, right? Venus faked a knee injury at Indians Wells to avoid playing her sister, right? There's always some wild rumor, some conspiratorial whisper. In the zany world that is Team Williams, this is why Friday was so refreshing. Venus showed her fitness. She showed her resolve. Her forehand went crazy for a stretch in the afternoon match. She lost 11 of 12 points and five successive games to Henin. Venus had bouts of inconsistency and the truth is Davenport is playing the best and the least right now. As part of the Mayor's Passport to Downtown Dining, players were given free meals at 11 local restaurants. It's time for Lindsay, who has played only two matches in two weeks, to sing for her supper. Venus earned her appetizer, entree and dessert Friday. Williams surely has played a singles and doubles match in one day many times, but this was different. "You only do half the work in doubles," Venus said. "You don't even have to move at times."

The Pilot Pen was moving and shaking Friday night. It was jumping with 11,584 fans. This was a real tournament. Capriati snarled about the light bulbs. She snarled about cell phones. She snarled about a baby crying and slammed her racket after a first-set loss. She snarled at some bad line calls. Venus just kept quiet and kept unleashing 115-120 mph serves. One would figure, given the intense workload, the crowd would have pulled for Williams. Not so. In both matches, more cheered for her opponent. It didn't seem right at all.

"I think they probably came to see Jennifer," Venus said. "They love her. They're happy to see her doing well. I can't say it was me they came to see."

They could go home saying that they had seen Williams. Venus is an extraordinary talent, but on this day - and night - she also showed she was an extraordinary worker. That counts for plenty.

Oct 6th, 2002, 10:39 AM


September 5, 2001 -- Venus Williams' hunky Italian boyfriend better watch out or he'll be out-foxed - by Jamie Foxx.
The Post caught the sexy tennis queen and the red-hot actor together minutes after she smacked down Sandrine Testud 6-4, 6-0, on Monday night.

The clinch came outside her dressing room at Flushing Meadows.

"She's an incredible specimen - a fantastic player," Foxx gushed later.

Is this a love match? No way, both parties insist.

Jamie, 33, said he and Venus, 21, met a few years back at a celebrity basketball game, where they "stunk" playing hoops.

The pair became fast friends and regularly stay in touch - but that's it, they both say.

Jamie insisted he was just there as a good-luck charm for her.

David Tomassoni, the strapping Italian bodyguard Venus has been romping with in recent months, was nowhere to be seen at the matches.

Tomassoni is believed to be back in Italy, where he's taking graduate-school classes.

If Venus was interested in Jamie, she may want to think twice before plunging in.

The talented, Texas-born star of "Any Given Sunday" and the upcoming "Ali" is a huge smash with the ladies.

After meeting Venus, he was surrounded by swarms of swooning fans.

Later, Foxx was seen hanging out with curvy hitmaker Alicia Keyes at a rehearsal for the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards show at the Metropolitan Opera House.

Another minus for a Venus-Jamie romance: At a towering 6-feet, she's inches taller than him.

Meanwhile, don't think Venus' 19-year-old sister, Serena, is letting the grass grow under her feet.

She has been dating football star LaVar Arrington.

Venus on top of tennis world
Sep. 9, 2001. 04:00 PM
NEW YORK (AP) - With each dynamite stroke and dominating victory, Venus Williams looks more and more like the best women's tennis player in the world.

Except, that is, when she plays against younger sibling Serena.

While Venus routinely comes out on top, as she did Saturday night in the first U.S. Open final between sisters, the quality of their matches never lives up to the significance of the occasion.

``We both know that when we come out there, it's going to be two competitors competing against each other. That's just the way it is,'' said Venus, who's 15 months older. ``When you walk out on the court, if you're not a competitor, you've just got to go home.

``There's nothing like winning a Grand Slam.''

She should know.

By beating 19-year-old Serena 6-2, 6-4 in their latest lacklustre encounter, Venus capped two weeks of brilliance in which she didn't lose a set en route to her second straight Open title.

It was also her second straight Grand Slam championship, after Wimbledon. She's now won four of the last six majors, plus two gold medals at the Sydney Olympics, over the past two years.

In the men's final Sunday, a rejuvenated Pete Sampras was bidding to extend his record of 13 major titles against first-time Grand Slam finalist Lleyton Hewitt.

Regardless of the pecking order in the women's rankings - Venus is No. 4, behind Martina Hingis, Jennifer Capriati and Lindsay Davenport - it's clear who really is the top player right now.

Venus is 46-5 in 2001, with six tournament titles. She's 24-1 with three championships since her shocking first-round exit at the French Open, which is played on clay, the surface least conducive to her game.

Her ranking suffers because of a system that rewards those who play more often. Hingis, for example, has entered eight more tournaments than Venus this year.

Venus is at the vanguard of a new style of tennis, combining pure power with an impressive athleticism that allows her to track down opponents' apparent winners.

With their forehands and flair, Venus and Serena have helped reinvigorate women's tennis. Saturday's meeting drew 23 million TV viewers, making it the most-watched program of the night.

Yet, it wasn't beautifully played, much like their previous six pro matches. Perhaps it's because it's tough to look across a net at your sibling and summon the killer instinct required in sports.

@#%$ @#%$, who won six U.S. Open titles in the 1970s and '80s, can relate. She hated playing younger sister Jeanne.

``It certainly wasn't a Grand Slam final, that's for sure, but I felt sick. I wanted to throw up on the court. It's an awful feeling,'' @#%$ said. ``You're filled with so much emotion. I didn't want to beat her, but I didn't want to lose to her. I didn't look her in the eyes. I just wanted to get off the court.''

Venus and Serena played as though they felt that way, avoiding the smiles and fist pumps they normally display. They turned their backs on each other after points, and twice avoided making contact by walking around opposite ends of the net during changeovers.

Sisters Sledgehammer combined for 55 unforced errors and lost serve a total of seven times. And it's tough to recall a major championship won by a player who conjured up only seven winners.

Far from scintillating. Lacklustre, even.

``I was happy to get free points, that's for sure,'' Venus said. ``Then, on the other hand, if I was sitting in the stands and Serena was playing someone else, I would say, `Come on, Serena! Just do this or that.' When I'd find myself doing that, I'd lose a couple points.

``And when I lost a couple points, I wasn't sorry anymore.''

Serena hit herself out of contention, failing to calibrate her power and spraying shots wide, long and into the net. Her unforced error count of 36 was awfully high for a match of just 18 games.

``It was a bit tough out there,'' she said. ``I was fighting the wind, fighting myself because I was making too many errors, and I was fighting Venus. Too many fights going on.''

Like any supportive relative, Serena wouldn't disagree that Venus is at the top of the sport right now.

``Well, winning four out of the last six (major tournaments), I guess you could say she is,'' Serena said. ``She's beaten everyone.''

Including Little Sis.

Oct 6th, 2002, 10:40 AM
CARLSBAD -- Never again should Venus and Serena be lumped into a single "Williams sisters" entity.

It is demeaning and insulting. It is meaningless, this talk of the "Williams sisters." How many Grand Slams will the "Williams sisters" win? When will the "Williams sisters" be ranked Nos. 1 and 2? Did you hear what the "Williams sisters" said? As if Venus and Serena spoke out of the same mouth, as if they carried the same head on their shoulders, as if they looked the same or played the same or talked the same.

Or won the same. Venus Williams, who dispatched 33-year-old Nathalie Tauziat, 6-2, 6-2, Friday in the quarterfinals of the Acura Classic at La Costa, is the winner of three Grand Slams. She has won the last two Wimbledons and is the defending U.S. Open champion. She plays a vibrant, confident game, both powerful and increasingly clever.

On Thursday night, Williams won a crucial break point on her serve by slamming a mean swing volley, then sneaking close to the net and ending the point against promising 18-year-old Daja Bedanova with a sweet, soft, backhand drop volley.

It has always been a knock on the "Williams sisters" that they had no finesse or feel for the game, no knowledge of how to end points in any way other than with their pummeling power.

But Venus is learning more about the game. She understands better the angles and percentages. She will choose more often to make sure her return of a second serve lands in the court instead of in the stands by easing up on the power switch.

More than her game has changed since Venus turned pro seven years ago. Her style of play was rough, her manner wary. Her brimming confidence was unseemly, and even then, when Serena hadn't yet turned 13, the talk was already of the "Williams sisters."

This was partly the fault of Richard Williams, the father and the coach. Richard was boldly predicting the glorious accomplishments of his daughters. He would stand in front of Venus and say that, absolutely, Serena would be better.

Right then we all should have paused and realized that paying attention to Richard was often silly and quoting him even sillier.

Because seven years later it is Venus who seems equipped with the physical tools and inner fortitude that could make her the game's best player ever.

The Venus Williams who walked confidently onto the court here was a tall, striking woman wearing a dazzling lime-green, T-backed tennis dress and earrings in the shape of a lime. "An impulse buy," she says, laughing.

This Venus is comfortable enough to show some of her personality. She talks about books and then about the massage she wants to have at this spa resort. She will deflect any questions about her father--those are mostly negative--in a way that is neither rude nor disrespectful of the man who, whatever faults he has, raised a bright, talented 21-year-old.

And this Venus is learning every day how to combine her incredible, graceful running ability and her supreme power into a total package.

Serena, 19, may have won the first family Grand Slam, but Venus has become a consummate pro. Serena is struggling with her inner resolve. Venus understands it is difficult right now for Serena. "She's hurt so much and her confidence is missing," Venus says. Venus has won this battle already, though.

The sisters love each other. They are friends. They are practice partners, doubles partners. So Venus fumbles to answer a question about whether she is bothered to so often be a sister and not Venus. Finally Venus says, "I think someday people will know who Venus is and who Serena is."

They are not twins. They are not joined at the hip.

It was silly to debate for months what it meant when Venus, an unhappy and distraught semifinal loser to Martina Hingis, sat in the U.S. Open player box with a hood pulled over her pouting face as Serena beat Hingis to win that 1999 Open.

What did it mean? It meant Venus had taken her semifinal loss hard. It meant Venus had very much wanted to win her first Grand Slam title. It meant maybe Venus was a little jealous of her younger sibling. It happens to all of us. It's a pretty saintly sort who hasn't at some point resented a sibling's success.

And when Serena, an unhappy quarterfinal loser to Jennifer Capriati, wasn't in the box to cheer for Venus as she won her second straight Wimbledon title this summer, why did anyone care?

There was no need to wonder if the sisters were fighting or angry with each other. Serena wanted to win Wimbledon, same as Capriati, Hingis, Lindsay Davenport and a load of other players. None stuck around to watch the final, either.

There is no need to have Venus and Serena together always. There is no need to rush to Richard anymore, either, hoping that the father will blurt out controversial statements. When Richard says Venus is going to retire, ignore it. When Venus says Venus is going to retire, that's important.

And let's hope it doesn't happen for a very long time.

Because each season Venus is becoming a better tennis player and letting us get to know a more interesting person. Venus shouldn't be compared to Serena. Maybe Venus should be compared to history's tennis greats.

If Venus stays healthy and interested in the game, she can make a very big mark in its history. She won't be doing it as a "Williams sister," either.

She will be doing it as uniquely Venus.

Oct 6th, 2002, 10:41 AM
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 9, 2001; Page D01

WIMBLEDON, England, July 8 -- Venus Williams didn't want to hear it after she lost in the first round of the French Open just six weeks ago, not even from her mother.

"She was very, very devastated, and I told her she just has to persevere, that these things are going to happen," Oracene Williams said. "But with Venus, she's very determined. She gets angry. Usually, the next time out, that loss makes her win."

And what a way to win. Taking a swipe at her recent past and making a beeline for her future, Williams flattened Justine Henin in the Wimbledon final today, grabbing a 6-1, 3-6, 6-0 victory and her second consecutive title here. With three Grand Slams now tucked under her powerful arms, Williams has seared a lasting imprint on the game, and while she will remain at No. 2 in the rankings behind Martina Hingis, by winning here she has changed the complexion of the upcoming American hard-court season and perhaps even the months and years beyond.

Ground that up until a few weeks ago seemed solely the turf of Australian and French Open champion Jennifer Capriati now feels like Williams's to trample -- along with just about everything else.

"You know, I love Wimbledon," said Williams, who also won the U.S. Open last year but considers this tournament her favorite. "It's great not to have to lose here. I haven't lost 14 matches in a row, so for me that's really sweet.

"And this means just a lot more to me this year because I hadn't played as well in the other Grand Slams as I would have liked. I really wanted this."

She certainly went after it like a tornado, spending the last two weeks unleashing her devastating serve across the tournament grounds. By the middle rounds, she had tidied up the unforced errors that sometimes litter her game, and by Thursday's semifinal she had fortified her concentration, staying calm when briefly challenged by No. 3 seed Lindsay Davenport.

By this afternoon, Williams was simply dominant, pinning Henin to the baseline for most of the match. The gritty Belgian managed to extend play with a single break of serve at 5-3 in the second set, her racket uncoiling more blockbuster power than her angular 5-foot-6 frame seems capable of shouldering. A brief, 15-minute rain delay also helped, giving Henin a chance to calm the nerves she had carted to her first Grand Slam final.

But while the 19-year-old Henin flashed plenty of promise today with formidable strokes and unflinching nerve, her rally proved brief. Williams won the opening game of the third set and then romped through the remaining five practically untouched. In fact, the end of the match came so quickly and firmly that an eerie silence thickened the air around Centre Court in the moments after Henin smacked the final ball into the net.

Even Williams's own celebration was somewhat subdued. After dancing and leaping across the court last year and then racing into the stands to hug her sister, Serena, and shimmy with her father, Richard, Williams simply lifted her arms this year, bounced up and down a few times and smiled.

"Venus has won the trophy here before, so it's a little different this time -- she was just very focused on trying to win here again," said Zina Garrison, who before Williams had been the last African American to reach the final here. With her victory today, Williams cements her place behind Althea Gibson as the only other African American woman to win here twice, although both she and Garrison emphasized that Williams's quest right now is a personal one.

"Really, I'm just trying to make my own success," Williams said. "I really am happy about this whole two weeks because for me this is the first time where I've served very well every match that I've played. For me, that's a breakthrough.

"Last year I don't think I worked as hard as maybe I should have after my wins. But this year I'm going to take [this win] a little differently. I'm going to work a little harder."

For Williams, the dance of success has always been a bit awkward. Not only has she sometimes shuddered at learning the steps, admitting how little time she spends on the practice courts, but even the twirl itself has sometimes scared her. She says she likes the "upgrades, special privileges and things" that come with celebrity, but she does not like the constant prying that also trails stardom.

The combination has led Williams to flirt with the WTA Tour's elite without ever reaching the crowning spot in the rankings, and this spring Williams again missed her chance to ascend to No. 1 after skipping some tournaments and, ill-prepared, flailing through others.

It wasn't until the bitterness of her defeat at Roland Garros that Williams seemed jolted with new desire, and by winning this afternoon, she has once again renewed her taste for victory.

"I think she's a little more determined right now," Oracene Williams said. "We'll have to see what she can do next."

Wimbledon Note: Cora Masters Barry, wife of former mayor Marion Barry, was in the Williams family box today to support Venus and friend Oracene. Barry, who recently oversaw the opening of the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, said about 50 children watched today's match together at the center. Venus, Serena, Oracene and Isha Williams, a law student at Georgetown University, were all present at the Center's ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier this year.

Oct 6th, 2002, 10:42 AM
Rachel Alexander Nichols
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 9, 2001; Page A01

WIMBLEDON, England, July 8 -- Venus Williams did not dance after winning Wimbledon this afternoon; she did not leap or scream. Her smile was more serene, her victory walk more stately.

The audacious girl who darted across the court and into the stands after her first Grand Slam victory here last year was gone, replaced by a graceful young woman who has won three major titles and seems ready to stop merely splashing through the shallow waters of tennis history and instead make a few lasting waves of her own.

"This means more to me -- I had to work a lot harder to win this one," said Williams, grinning broadly after slicing through Belgium's Justine Henin, 6-1, 3-6, 6-0. "I think this is going to be a great place for me for years to come."

With her staggering serve, mammoth reach and fleet feet, Williams has long seemed destined to dominate places like Centre Court, but even after she won the U.S. Open last fall, uncertainty hovered over how much Williams coveted that kind of authority.

At 21, she never has been ranked No. 1, and she often has torn away entire swatches of the tennis calendar, choosing instead to attend fashion school or nurse minor injuries. Even after her win today, she still will not grab the rankings' top spot, and she is far from assailing Martina Navratilova's record nine Wimbledon singles titles or Margaret Court's 24 Grand Slam championships.

But with her calm, authoritative stroll to collect her trophy,Williams sent a clear message about her developing determination to carve out a more permanent place in the game. This win is no sensation that calls for wild celebration; she is no phenomenon.

This is normal. She is a champion.

"She used to just stick her trophies in the garage or in the shed, but in the last little bit, she's been going searching for them, and she's putting them on these shelves she and [sister] Serena have put up in their house," said Williams's mother, Oracene, who along with her husband, Richard, coaches both daughters.

"She's just become a lot more mature and focused. That's what everyone is seeing out there. She's growing up."

Williams certainly looked poised against Henin, overcoming initial nerves to steamroll through the first set in 24 minutes. The crowd, already deflated from seeing British favorite Tim Henman lose his rain-delayed semifinal earlier in the afternoon, wearily began urging Henin to fight harder, although anyone who had witnessed the gritty Belgian's earlier matches would have known no prompting was necessary.

A self-described slow starter but a fierce competitor, the 5-foot-6, 126-pound Henin is all sharp elbows and angled cheekbones, a teenager whose meek softness long ago was eroded by a painful childhood. By 12 years old, Henin was mourning the death of her mother to intestinal cancer. By 18, a sharp family split ended when she severed contact with her father.

At 19, Henin has seen her personal life settle with an engagement to her longtime boyfriend. She also has seen her ranking soar -- she will hit No. 5 after her appearance here -- and her game sizzle. In the semifinals Thursday, she pounced from behind to extinguish Jennifer Capriati's quest to claim all four of the year's major tournaments, and today, Henin roared back in much the same way, patiently chipping away at her bigger, stronger opponent until, near the end of the set, she finally broke with a dagger of a service return.

But while Henin extended the story line of her first career Grand Slam final, she could not do much to change the ending. Looking as unruffled as if she was stepping out to water the grass instead of mowing over it, Williams ripped open the third set with a pounding service game that never allowed Henin back into the match.

"Her serve was unbelievable all match -- I broke her only once," Henin said. "It's amazing, so fast, a lot of precision. That was tough."

Williams had equally kind words for Henin, noting in her post-match speech to the crowd that, "In my first Grand Slam final, I didn't win a set. She's going to be back and she's going to be a great player."

It was a marked change from last year, when Williams would not even mention vanquished opponent Lindsay Davenport's name, much less congratulate her, and notable as well this time was the minute Williams took to share her trophy with a boy in a wheelchair who had flipped the match's opening coin toss.

She has become more openly comfortable with her stature and secure in her ability, and while she followed Althea Gibson today by becoming the only other African American woman to win Wimbledon twice, Williams stressed that she was not trying to emulate the former champion.

"She's herself; she's Venus. She's the one who will have the titles and the history," agreed former top-10 player Zina Garrison, who has mentored both Williams sisters. "And she's still making history because she's winning it over and over again. She's really putting herself on the tennis map."

The history Williams already has made has been remarkable, especially considering she has never fully dedicated herself to the sport. Today she revealed that she "didn't practice at all" in the weeks after winning Wimbledon last year, even though during that time she won two major hard-court tournaments. She also said she "didn't practice that much for the U.S. Open" and "was a major pin collector at the Olympics; I didn't do much practicing" -- yet she won the singles titles at both events.

The only thing Williams was not able to do was win tournaments she did not enter, and with such a limited schedule, she has been stymied at No. 2 in the rankings. Now, she believes she can break through to the top spot, and while she still does not think much of the practice courts, she promises to spend more time there.

Williams believes she is reaching the stage, after all, when winning isn't merely intoxicating, but proudly routine.

"I have to make it a priority, I have to play more," Williams said, even hinting that she might not return to fashion school in the fall. "I think I can learn to capitalize better, just really work on more things in my game.

"I think tennis is something I'm really good at, and I like playing. Sometimes things get really complicated, especially if you're having a really bad time in your career," Williams continued, and then she paused and smiled.

"But right now," she said, "right now things are quite simple."

Oct 6th, 2002, 10:43 AM
Venus Williams smashes into tennis history

By Ayo Ositelu

TWENTY-ONE year-old African-American, Venus Williams, the defending champion and second seed, yesterday on the Centre Court of the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquer Club, popularly known as Wimbledon, blasted her way into the record books, thus cementing her claim to being the actual world number one player, even if the computer rankings are yet to come to grips with reality.

Even the heavens could not stop the march of the wonderful athlete who moved about the Centre Court like a gazelle and often came up with shots which most players could only dream about, as she turned back the fierce and worthy challenge of the 8th seeded Justine Henin of Belgium 6-2, 3-6, 6-0 to claim her second consecutive ladies' singles title. The final match had been delayed for one day, owing to persistent rain showers on Saturday.

If, as they say, performers enjoy one day in their careers which is impossible to match or improve on, yesterday was one such day for Venus. Many in the 14,000 capacity crowd which included former President of the United States, Bill Clinton and Sir Paul McArtney, the legendary composer and guitarist of the Beatles fame, left the Centre Court with a uniform feeling - that no one has ever played better tennis.

In the same vein, many were convinced that even Venus herself can never match the quality of tennis which flowed from her racquet in the third and final set.

As she had done in all her previous matches, including the semi-final against Lindsay Davenport, the 1999 champion whom she beat to reach the final, Venus overpowered her slimmer and shorter opponent to win the opening set 6-2.

After such a display of brutal force of thunderous serves and wickedly hit service returns, the crowd was too sure of a very short outcome of the match. Venus is not the type of player who would have her opponent on the "ropes" and let her off.

But Henin, who had become the first Belgian player ever to feature in the Wimbledon singles final, had other ideas. The second set went with serve until Henin broke Venus's service in the eigth game to take a 5-3 lead, after which she surprisingly came back from 0-30 to win the next four points to wrap up the set at 6-3 thus drawing level at one set apiece.

The thoroughly entertained and excited crowd then adjusted their seats to prepare to see another thrilling and marathon final set similar to the French (Open) Ladies Singles Final which Jennifer Capriati won by beating Kim Clijsters (Henin's country woman) 11-9 in the final set. Fresh in the memory of the crowd also was the amazing comeback of Henin, who in the semi-final came back from one set down at 6-2 and 0-2 in the second to beat Capriati 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.

However, Venus would have none of that as she seemed to operate from another orbit, and as if she were driving a car, she reached the overdrive while doing everything she wanted to do on the court.

Bill Clinton, a man adept at capturing moments in words, called the performance, especially in that third set, "a display of incredible power and accuracy." Even Venus herself appeared stunned by her performance, describing her third set as the closest thing to perfection. "I can't believe some of the things I did out there. Everything just came together."

But she was magnanimous in victory as she found some nice words for her opponent, when she said: "Justine played unbelievably well. No one could have played better than her against me the way she stood her ground in the first two sets."

Then Henin delivered a verdict which even the computer is yet to admit. Said she: "The lady I just played against is the best player in the world. I don't care what anybody says."

As for Richard Williams, the most successful tennis father in the game's rich history is enjoying the last laugh. In the past four years, he has been telling anyone who cared to listen that his daughters are the best two female players in the universe. Many mocked him, and many remained skeptical.

Yesterday, Richard's daughter received the revered Ladies Singles Silver Plate for the second consecutive year to equal the record of fellow African-American Althea Gibson. Considering that Venus also is the reigning US Open Singles and Doubles Champion, the 2000 Sydney Olympics double gold medallist, with her sister Serena, earlier winning the US Open in 1999, and together with sister Venus having won numerous double titles, Richard can face the critics and say: "I told you so."

The world waited for 73 years to produce the first black ladies singles champion (in 1957 and 195 . Since then, the world had to wait for another 43 years for another black (Venus) to win.

And at 21, who says Venus cannot win many more. The elders say: "Today's rain has not stopped, and you are declaring that it is not as much as yesterday's. Who knows when today's rain will stop?"

Oct 21st, 2002, 07:54 PM
Venus Williams, thrilling 'em and killing 'em

Author: Michael Cecilio
Published on: August 12, 2000

Related Subject(s): Williams, Serena, 1981- , Williams, Venus, 1980- , Women tennis players

They said it before she started playing professional matches. They were saying it during her meteoric rise to the Top 10. They are saying it now that she has cemented herself as one of the top players in the women’s game. They are saying that Venus has what it takes to be the best in the women’s game – ever. Judging by her recent results, it is fair to say that she has a definite shot at cracking history’s elite.
Yes, I agree, it is rather premature to start talking about the legacy of a tennis player who has played for just over two full years on the professional tour and who has not reached the top ranking in her sport. But take a look at her results! If it doesn’t scream future #1, then what does? If it doesn’t scream multiple Grand Slam championships, then what does? Once again it seems premature, I know, but it doesn’t take an Einstein to work out that Williams is riding the biggest wave of her career. Whether she can continue on in this fashion up to and including the US Open is another story and it should prove to be an interesting and fruitful challenge for the incredibly athletic player.

For the first time since Serena Williams in 1999, someone on the tour has won three tournament titles in a row. It just so happens to be Serena’s older sister. Like Serena, Venus included a Grand Slam victory in her triple title run, having won Wimbledon last June and following it up with two hardcourt victories in Stanford and San Diego. I wish I could say that it wasn’t easy for her, but it seems to be quite the contrary. Venus blitzed both fields en route to her titles, and included victories over Davenport, Martinez, Seles and Kournikova. The scary thing was that she probably wasn’t playing at her best in some of her matches but managed to pull through. Her biggest scare of the fortnight was against Amy Frazier in their Stanford match. Frazier had a 7-6 4-6 5-3 lead when Venus bore down and won in a third set tiebreak after finding herself two points away from the match at one point. The difference in her game the following week was obvious when she routed the same opponent in San Diego 6-2 6-3. Other than Frazier, the only one to stretch Venus to three sets in the last fortnight was Monica Seles who herself has been on a hot streak lately. In their San Diego final, Venus bagelled Monica in the first set (which lasted 18 minutes) before Monica fought back to a 5-2 lead in the second set, eventually winning the set in a tiebreak. The third set could have been closer with Monica’s momentum ever increasing, but the distress of her forearm strain (which caused her to withdraw from Los Angeles and Montreal) coupled with Venus’s confidence proved to be too much of a hindrance for Seles.

It appears that Venus and sister Serena are headed for world domination. Possibly even world annihilation. Based on current results, their boasts about being #1 and #2 in the world in the near future don’t seem to be mere boasts but more like predictions. However, if women’s tennis wants to remain as popular as it has in the last few years, the WTA should be demanding the Williams girls to ease up on their opponents! Having the Williamses at the top is great for the game as they are both marketable and affable girls. But in my opinion, returning to the days when the tour was dominated by one or two girls is not going to be conducive towards promoting a healthy and popular tour. Perhaps the girls are taking advantage of a latent period from a seemingly overpowered and frustrated Hingis and a mentally fatigued Davenport. It’s great for them to be achieving the goals they have set out for themselves at such a young age. But what makes the tour so great is the amount of competition at the top of the rankings. Hingis, Davenport and the Williams sisters seem to be the girls to beat in regular tournament play, but they are suddenly facing serious challenges by an ever improving Seles (who sits at #5) and an increasingly confident Pierce (who sits at #4). Not to mention Martinez who at #6 is having her best year on tour since 1996. Even Anna Kournikova has risen to the challenge of performing at the top level with her recent results. What is so great about the tour is that the field is not too deep that we would be sitting through the final rounds watching unknown players, but also that at the very top we have a handful of serious challengers who can win the big tournaments and provide exciting matches and rivalries while also staving off the second tier of challengers on the tour. It is an exciting time to be involved in the sport of women’s tennis, and to have that factor of unpredictability taken away by sheer dominance would eliminate some of its luster

Oct 21st, 2002, 07:55 PM
Game, Set, Match

by J. H. Huebert

The Collegian

September 22, 2000

I’m not a big follower of professional sports. I respect what athletes do, but to me it seems sort of silly to cheer for people that you don’t know, in a situation where you have no control over the outcome. I think my lack of sports fanaticism makes my life is better than it otherwise would be, because my emotions don’t hinge on how someone else performs in a game.

That said, I have a new hero in the world of sports, and she is Venus Williams.

Earlier this month, Miss Williams won the U.S. Open women’s tennis tournament. Big deal—someone does that every year and I don’t notice.

What makes Miss Williams truly outstanding is the manner in which she handled the traditional congratulatory phone call from President Clinton. One might have expected her to thank the chief executive for taking time out of his busy schedule to recognize her achievement, etc.

But she had something more important on her mind: She asked him if he could see about lowering taxes. "Did you see how hard I worked out there?" she asked. "I want to keep my earnings."

Taken aback by the unusual treatment, Clinton said that he didn’t think that he could do anything about that right now, but that there should be new rules for athletes.


Why a special exemption for athletes? Because Bill Clinton likes watching them? What about the people who run the companies who produce the food he eats and the clothes he wears? What about the guy who’s just managed to get a little bit ahead after a lifetime of hard work? Are they less deserving?

And somehow I don’t think middle class voters who struggle to make ends meet are going to be thrilled about special "new rules" for the guys who get paid $1 million to warm the bench in the NBA.

Of course, President Clinton wasn’t serious—his was the embarrassed response of a politician caught off guard.

Venus wasn’t buying it, either. Her response: "Can I read your lips on that?"

The President then invited Miss Williams to dinner at the White House. She told him: "I’ll see what I can do about it."

Venus Williams knows she’s earned what she has through her own work. And apparently she’s not about to accord an undue amount of respect to a man who has never earned anything in the free market, where value is exchanged for value, but who has instead spent his entire life in government, living at the expense of productive people like herself.

It’s easy for politicians to attack "the rich" as a greedy, evil class that deserves to be taxed. But it’s a bit less comfortable when they have to speak directly to our some of our nation’s greatest achievers and justify what they do to them.

And what about the rest of us? How would Bill Clinton handle each of us if we told him how much harder our lives are because we have to work almost half of a year to pay all of our taxes? Imagine if he had to give an embarrassed apology to each of us individually for taking what we’ve rightfully earned, as he did to Venus Williams.

I get no thrill from other people’s victories on the court or on the field. But when Venus Williams refused to bow down to the majesty of the state and socked it to President Clinton, she was scoring one for all of us.

That’s worth cheering for.

Oct 21st, 2002, 07:57 PM
Venus hopes for golden moment

Wimbledon and US Open champion Venus Williams had an easy win in the second match of Tuesday's night session, defeating Slovak Henrieta Nagyova 62 62 in the opening round. The second seeded Williams will face Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn in the second round of the women's singles at the Olympic Tennis Event.

The victory was the 27th consecutive win for the No. 2 seeded American who has not lost a match since falling to Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in the quarterfinals at 2000 Roland Garros. Williams improved her year-to-date record to 33-3.

Asked how she felt about continuing the streak, Williams remarked, "I feel very nice. I forgot about the winning streak thing, until you said it now."

Williams hasn't had trouble maintaining her concentration with Olympic gold in sight. "I'm focused because I've made a commitment to be here so mentally I was ready to compete."

"I feel it's a long way until that gold medal and a lot of opponents will want it," Williams continued, "But I'm looking to get the gold."

And Williams thinks a gold medal would compare favourably to her Grand Slam titles. "When you think about all these athletes, this is their dream and they are up there. They are trying their best and when they get their Gold, their Silver and their Bronze, they are so happy. They are crying and shaking. It seems like getting a Gold would be pretty nice."

Oct 21st, 2002, 07:58 PM
Clinton Witnesses Williams Victory

Chelsea Clinton atoned for her father's early exit from the US Open women's singles final by remaining until the end of number two seed Venus Williams' domination of Jana Kandarr (GER) in straight sets (6/2 6/2) this afternoon.

The bulge of secret service officers at 3/2 in the second set signalled the arrival of the US President's daughter who has been spotted at various Olympic Games events during the past week.

Her entrance did little to distract the woman who is becoming a dominating force of the sport. Williams stamped her name on this match from the first bounce. Streaking to a 3/0 lead in the first set, the American was too much fire power for her German opponent.

As she did at Roland Garros this year in the pair's only other encounter, Williams did not allow Kandarr into the match. It was all over in a flash of Williams at her best.

The chant of U-S-A which erupted from the American camp as Williams rose to serve for the match was more a formality than an incentive.

Team Captain Billie Jean King, who yesterday had the misfortune of losing defending gold medallist Lindsay Davenport on account of injury, today witnessed one of her prospects moving closer to glory.

Williams said this match was more of a challenge than her first round, but is wary of becoming complacent.

"Now I'm into the quarters, things are starting to get more serious, and this is the Olympics," Williams said. "I'm serious and focussed and realise these girls want to win as much as I do."

While the USA women's team was aspiring to a medal sweep, Williams remains confident of snaring two of the three accolades. Her quarterfinal opponent is Spain's Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (seeded 5). Williams boasts a four/three lead in the head-to-head tally. However, most of their clashes have been close, with four of the matches going to three sets.

"Things have changed now. I'm a little smarter," Williams said with a wry smile. "I have to go out there and do my best. Usually when I do that, I win."

Oct 21st, 2002, 07:59 PM
The World According to Williams

Venus Williams is having the time of her life. She is currently riding on a 29 match-winning streak. This is the longest women's victorious run behind Martina Hingis' domination of the first half of 1997 which came to a halt at the French Open after 37 consecutive wins.

The 20-year-old American, seeded two here, turned professional in 1994. Her transition into the 'real' world of tennis was a tranquil one, but her awesome run at her inaugral US Open in 1997 - where she reached the Final - signalled the coming of age of this soon-to-be superstar.

The following year, Williams reached nothing short of the quarterfinals at the four Grand Slams, with the exception being the US Open where she advanced to the semis.

Her first taste of Grand Slam success was in 1998 when she teamed with Justin Gimelstob to claim the Australian Open mixed doubles title. This whetted the American's appetite for Grand Slam silverware and the formation of a successful partnership with younger sister Serena has already delivered three Grand Slam women's doubles titles (1998 Australian Open and French Open, and this year's Wimbledon Championships).

But this is the year of her career to date. Tendinitis in both wrists caused a delay to the start of her 2000 campaign, however Williams has more than compensated. Five singles titles this year, among them Wimbledon and the US Open, are coupled with this intimidating winning streak.

Williams last suffered a loss at the hands of Spain's Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and the Spaniard (seeded 5) is awaiting her in the quarterfinals here at Sydney 2000.

Can Vicario draw this amazing streak to a close, or will Williams continue her charge?

Oct 21st, 2002, 08:01 PM
Williams Guarantees Herself a Medal

American Venus Williams (seeded 2) has become the first player here at Sydney 2000 to be assured of an Olympic medal after defeating compatriot Monica Seles (3) in three sets (6/1 4/6 6/3).

The first set was just another day in the office for Williams who easily dominated her opponent.

However, the second set was a more even contest with the duo being spurred on by fellow countrymen whom had adopted the unique Australian chant and substituted the host nation for their own - "USA, Oi, Oi, Oi!"

A break in the fifth game signalled Williams was on her way, but the 31-consecutive match winner's serve proved her friend as well as her foe. The seventh game of the middle set epitomised this roller coaster when a Williams double fault brought the game to deuce. Seles claimed the next point to give her a break opportunity but Williams responded with two consecutive aces to reclaim control. Two more doubles faults and a Seles winner, and the set was level at four games all.

Seles, the former world number one and nine-time Grand Slam champion, dominated her own service game and was in front for the first time in the match. She forced a set point opportunity and a Williams double fault split the match at one set apiece.

In a flash Williams was up a double break in the third - the second break courtesy of a lucky net cord. Seles managed to salvage some dignity by breaking back to 2/4 and her ensuing service game featured flashes of brilliance. But it was not to be for the sentimental favourite and a forehand winner down the line ensured Williams' worst-case scenario will be a silver medal come Wednesday.

"I had some pretty rough patches and she definitely elevated her game," Williams said. "But today I think I played pretty well, pretty even."

Williams said her excitement about winning an Olympic medal has increased with each match.

"Mentally I just wanted to be ready to compete, but right now it would be the ultimate thing to have a gold," Williams said.

Gracious in defeat, Seles will meet the loser of the other semi final match between Australian Jelena Dokic and Russian Elena Dementieva (10) in the bronze medal play off.

Already maximising her Olympic experience by witnessing other events including swimming and the athletics, Seles is looking forward to cheering friend Gail Devers in the athletics on Wednesday night.

Oct 21st, 2002, 08:01 PM
Williams out for Golden Sweep

American Venus Williams will be guaranteed of two medals at this Olympic Games after she teamed with sister Serena to book a spot in the women's doubles final to defeat Belgian pair Els Callens and Dominique Van Roost (6/4 6/1).

After the fifth seeded Belgians claimed an early break, a potential contest was on the cards.

"They (Belgians) were up there," Serena said. "They were playing a good game. It kept us on our toes."

But it was not long before the American duo regrouped to not only break back, but also claim control of the set and the match.

But in order to claim gold on Thursday, Serena conceded she will have to improve her game.

"I haven't been playing very well personally," she said. "I could serve a little better, volley, return a little better. The whole nine yards."

The Williams sisters will meet Dutch pair Kristie Boogert and Miriam Oremans in the final. The Americans defeated this pair in their only match up earlier this month at the US Open.

Should Venus manage a golden sweep of women's singles and doubles Olympic medals, she will be emulating a rare feat. The last woman to achieve this was German (FRG) Helga Niesson in 1968 (Guadalajara, Mexico).

Williams would replace a long-standing American record should she claim two gold medals this week which is currently held by Helen Wills whom achieved this back in 1924 (Paris).

Only two other women have managed to claim gold in both singles and doubles. In 1900, Briton Charlotte Cooper - the first female athlete ever to claim an Olympic medal - won her singles and mixed doubles match. At this point, mixed was the only doubles option for women. Twelve years later, compatriot Edith Hannam matched this feat.

Oct 21st, 2002, 08:06 PM
Venus has the Midas Touch

Venus Williams' trophy room will now have a golden hue after the American wiped out Russian Elena Dementieva (6/2 6/4) to claim her first Olympic medal in today's women's singles final.

Notching up consecutive victory number 32, there seems to be little this marvel can't do. Williams' lap of honour carrying a giant American flag befitted this occasion.

At the medal presentation ceremony, alongside Williams was compatriot Monica Seles, and the crowd was delighted to see this sentimental favourite atop the presentation dias.

A broad smile would not be wiped from Williams' face throughout the presentation, with the exception of some tears which were inspired by the sight of her national flag being raised and the sounds of the American anthem blaring from the speakers.

En route to today's victory, Williams only true competition at Sydney 2000 was in the form of Seles and Spaniard Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario

Oct 21st, 2002, 08:06 PM
Williams Claims the Double

American Venus Williams has become the first woman since compatriot Helen Mills (1924) to claim Olympic gold in the women's singles and doubles events when she successfully teamed today with sister Serena to defeat Dutch pair Kristie Boogert and Miriam Oremans (6/1 6/1).

The Americans easily overpowered their opponents and never looked challenged throughout the entire match.

The sisters giggled deliriously as they approached the net to shake hands with the Dutch, and then proceeded to engage in the lap of honour carrying two giant USA flags.

"It was really exciting," Venus said. "We came into this match really seriously. It's kind of sad for the Olympics to be over."

The Williams sisters said they will use this experience to improve their doubles prowess. They were given some sound advice from Zina Garrison, a member of the USA entourage this week, to team up.

"We were playing two singles matches instead of one doubles match," Venus said. "When we leave this place we're going to be really improved."

Serena echoed her sister's delight. "Just to be part of history is really important. To be able to capitalise on this opportunity has been really rewarding."

This match closed the curtain on the Sydney 2000 Olympic Tennis Event, touted as the most successful to date. More than 170,000 spectators witnessed thrilling live tennis action. Russia claimed its first two medals, and the USA collected three medals, thereby increasing its total haul to 44. This nation now sits atop the medal tally.

Careers were boosted, and one book closed signalling the end of the era. It was, in short, an experience unique to the Olympic Games.

Oct 30th, 2002, 06:01 AM
The Cerebral Nature of Venus Williams
Larry Platt
SportsJones Magazine
September 28, 2000

How the Williams sisters and Eric Riley are changing the game

he message was left on my voicemail in the wee hours. "Come by the courts at the University at 10 this morning," Eric Riley said. "There’s something you’ll want to see."

It was early August, about three weeks and change before the U.S. Open, and something about the tantalizing nature of the invitation, the mystery of it, drew me to the University of Pennsylvania’s outdoor tennis courts at the appointed time. There was the 39-year-old Riley, a striking African American man (he was once engaged to Robin Givens), the former coach of Pam Shriver, Kathy Jordan, Lisa Raymond and the Jensen brothers.

At 6’3," he stood at the net, where, in the most compact of motions, he methodically blocked back a torrent of groundstrokes that were whizzing off the racket of a bouncing blur of an opponent. Onlookers were flocking to the sight from their nearby offices, drawn by the high-pitched grunts coming from the court. Again and again, there Riley stood, silent, volleying back the bullets launched by this faceless dynamo of energy.

As I got closer, all of it – the gawking crowd, the on-court intensity – made sudden sense when I recognized who that was scurrying around the baseline. Martina Navratilova was hitting with her friend Riley, but this was no social call. She was working out. And working, and working, and working. She was tuning up for the Open, where she’d play doubles and mixed doubles.

For the next couple of hours, she’d rarely pause for a breather, her shirt soaked, muscles rippling. She even started to play to the crowd of slack-jawed onlookers. "Remember, nobody on their death bed ever said I should have done more paperwork and played less tennis!" she said.

During a Gatorade break, she told Riley’s assistant, a college player, that this type of workout was standard fare for her when she was number one in the world – followed, every day, by an hour of cardio and an hour of weightlifting. Riley looked at his pupil and only had to utter one word: "See?"

Riley, who tells his players that the most important part of a tennis player is the part you can’t see – the heart – would try and impart a similar lesson in work ethic to his newest acolyte a few weeks later. Just before the Open, he was hired to coach Alexandra Stevenson, the 19-year-old who had burst upon the scene during the 1999 Wimbledon fortnight when, as a qualifier, she made it all the way to the semifinals – an unheard of feat. That she’d been able to go from obscure high school graduate to the final four of the most pressure-packed, storied tournament in history was made all the more eye-opening by the fact that her streak took place while she was engulfed in a media maelstrom: Her tennis was in danger of being overshadowed by the secret of her parentage when it came out that she was Julius Erving’s daughter.

She lost to Lindsay Davenport that year, but not before charming the press with a sweet smile while watching her mother, Samantha, become the latest tennis parent to earn media scrutiny. Samantha made noise about racism and lesbianism on the tour, while Alexandra took care of business on the court.

"Nothing could have prepared Alexandra for what happened after that Wimbledon," Riley says today, after working with Stevenson for four days prior to her first round 6-3, 6-4 loss to Mary Pierce at the Open. "She was thrown into the lion’s den. After that, she was guaranteed to never have an easy tennis match again. That’s hard to deal with when you’ve just graduated high school."

Indeed, Stevenson came to Riley after compiling a dismal 9-22 record since her Wimbledon debut last year. Though she lost to Pierce last month, there were encouraging signs. In four days of preparation, Riley worked on only two facets of Stevenson’s game: her return of serve and her own big, but inconsistent, serve. Against Pierce, she missed only eight service returns and served at 62 percent. Were it not for a bevy of unforced errors, she would have upset the No. 4 seed.

Riley is mulling going on the road with Stevenson next year, so taken is he with her potential. "Alexandra has the best service motion in the world," he says. "She’s got the game’s hardest serve, but has to learn location and spin." He pauses. And then he says the one thing that every tennis coach has said, the one thing few ever find. "She can be the real thing. Top five talent."

Changing the face of tennis

It started with a paper plate in 1969. That’s how Eric Riley knew he’d be a professional tennis player. He was just nine years old and living in the suburbs of Philadelphia when he’d gone to a tennis match at Philadelphia’s Spectrum. There, he saw someone who looked like him kick ass on a tennis court, someone with dark skin, slightly kinky hair and a fragile build that masked a fiery zeal. He saw Arthur Ashe. And when Ashe kindly signed his paper plate, the kid was hooked.

Over the years, Ashe would serve as something of a mentor to Riley, pushing education – and not athletics. Ashe was why Riley eschewed the big-time scholarship offers and attended the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania, where he was captain of the tennis team while majoring in Oriental Studies.

After a stellar collegiate career, Riley decided to buck the odds and try the professional satellite tour. "Once I had some good results on tour, Arthur had some encouraging things to say, but he was always more concerned that I think about my future," says Riley, whose suburban Philadelphia home contains signed bound copies of Ashe’s history of the African American athlete, A Hard Road to Glory. In seven years on the tour, Riley peaked at No. 270 in the world, beating David Pate, then ranked 18th in the world, and David Wheaton in Hawaii.

As a coach, Riley has been more successful. In fact, he’s the first African American since Ashe captained the U.S. Davis Cup squad to coach marquee white players, having guided top-five singles player Pam Shriver to the 1991 U.S. Open doubles title. Raymond reached her highest singles ranking under Riley’s tutelage in 1997 (15th), and won the U.S. Open mixed doubles trophy in 1996.

Of late, he’s amassed an up-and-coming crew of tennis talent in Philadelphia, although, like their coach, they don’t look like tennis players. His students include 16-year-old African American Frankie Green and Asian Chelsea Glynn, also 16, who moved to Philly from Des Moines, Iowa, to train with Riley.

Riley, who was once approached by a fellow named Richard Williams when Williams was in search of a coach for his two pre-teen prodigies, believes that tennis is just now starting to change, to become open to new and darker skin tones. He sees it at tournaments now, when African American families fill the stands to see the Williams sisters.

But he knows that such change is slow and incremental; last year, for instance, at the Advanta Championships in Philadelphia, little black girls with beads in their hair were everywhere to be found in the audience during Venus Williams’s match. But when the final pitted Martina Hingis versus Davenport, the crowd again seemed all-white and country club.

That’s why Alexandra Stevenson can be so important; Riley knows that if he decides to go on the road with her and she makes it back to the elite, such an accomplishment can build on the goal instilled in him by his mentor, Ashe: To change the face of tennis.

Cerebral nature

The stereotypes still exist, of course. We saw them at Wimbledon, when Chris Evert talked about Venus Williams’s "natural athletic talent," characterized Martina Hingis as "smart," and conjured up memories of Howard Cosell’s infamous "little monkey" remark when she observed that Williams was "playing like a caged animal." Indeed, prior to the Open’s semifinal match between Venus Williams and Hingis, announcer Dick Enberg set up the battle thusly: "It’s the power of Williams versus the cerebral nature of Hingis."

"I remember in the ‘60s and ‘70s, how it was believed that black men couldn’t quarterback a football team because we weren’t cerebral enough and didn’t have leadership qualities," says Riley, when I tell him of Enberg’s remark. "That wasn’t true, and everybody knows it now. But football had a Doug Williams, a Randall Cunningham. Tennis still hasn’t had to deal with a lot of African Americans excelling in the sport."

Riley knows that the Williams sisters weren’t born already in possession of a tennis gene. Interestingly, John McEnroe knows this, too. During the Open, he was the lone voice – in contrast to the likes of Enberg, Tracy Austin, and Mary Carillo – to acknowledge that they’ve gotten where they are due to their work ethic, a trait normally assigned to the white athlete. (Think Larry Bird in contrast to Michael Jordan; both spent equivalent amounts of time in the gym, but which was depicted as a "workmanlike, lunch-pail gym rat" and which as a "natural athlete"?)

During one of Venus Williams’s matches, McEnroe said: "Venus works extremely hard at her game. The other day, she played Tauziat three tough sets, then played a doubles match and then was out on the practice court that night – all in the same day."

Why was this not mentioned sooner? Why did it take an aside from McEnroe – who has always been progressive on matters of race, once turning down $1 million to play an exhibition at Sun City in South Africa because of his opposition to apartheid – to remind us that what we see from black athletes isn’t easy?

In fact, Riley marvels at the cerebral nature of the Williamses’ respective games. They play with an all-out, aggressive abandon that is the product of the triumph of mind over matter. They go for their shots, aiming for the lines without regard to circumstance: a conscious, thought-out strategy, when the natural tendency is to tighten up and play it safer.

Against Hingis and Davenport, Venus actually played smarter than her opponents, using her exceptional speed to run down shots and hit aggressively defensive shots in reply. The result was that both Hingis and Davenport would have to hit three or four scorching shots from deep in their own court, often on the run – each one a winner against any other opponent – just to win one point. She forced them into errors.

"That’s what Alexandra and I talk about," Riley says. "How you don’t have to go for winners on every shot. How tennis is about drawing mistakes from your opponents."

Indeed, Riley sees the Williamses’ success as an inherently cerebral one. As he sees it, putting your talents to productive use is an intellectual endeavor. After all, there are plenty of players with talent – Stevenson is still one – who have yet to master the nuances of the game. But he also recognizes something else in the Williamses, something he’s also trying to nurture in Stevenson: the aggressiveness of the African American athlete

Changing the game

"In every sport we enter in large numbers, we change how it’s played and coached," Ashe wrote in A Hard Road to Glory. "Be it Billy ‘White Shoes’ Johnson changing the idea of celebration in football to how Black players changed the use of speed in baseball. Within five years of Jackie Robinson’s entry into the major leagues, Blacks took over the stolen base category and made it a weapon of intimidation it hadn’t been since the Ty Cobb era. We’re used to playing an in-your-face game."

It’s a style born of being locked out. When Riley was on the tour, countless white players, content to stay on the baseline, would ask him why the game’s few black players all played the same serve-and volley-style. He sensed then, and believes now, that the answer has something to do with environmental determinism.

"Coming up, you just knew that a passive person of color wouldn’t make it," he says. "To get to the top in a white dominated sport – or whatever field you’re in – you just have to work harder and be more driven than the next guy. You know this coming in."

And, as Ashe illustrates, that in-your-face style is smart in and of itself, because it can be wielded as a weapon, as lethal as a crosscourt forehand. A case in point was on display at the Open. The "alliance" between Hingis and Davenport – who pledged to each other that they’d stand in the way of an all-Williams final – had something to do with race; after all, no two players had ever conspired together to prevent a Hingis-Davenport final. (And Hingis and Davenport, at least prior to Venus Williams’s Open win, were ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively).

It was revealing of just how deep into their opponents’ psyches the Williamses had traveled. Talk about intimidation: Before they were even scheduled to play the Williamses, Davenport and Hingis were fretting about the eventuality.

And, then, once play began between Hingis and Venus Williams, Venus sent some clear signals during Hingis’s first service game. She swatted her first three service returns with all her might, standing inside the baseline. The balls careened wildly wide and long, but the point had been made and it was reminiscent of Patrick Ewing’s goaltends against North Carolina to start the 1982 NCAA championship game. It said, "Don’t take your shit in here." When Venus started rolling and hitting her surging forehand swinging volleys – maybe now the most intimidating shot in all of tennis, recalling Ashe’s prediction of how black athletes change the game – the upset was on.

When he was on tour, Eric Riley had to withstand racism. Of course, he has to withstand it to this day, too, as on those all too frequent days that he gets pulled over in his BMW and asked, "Whose car is this?"

But on tour, he had to train himself to turn the other cheek. It wasn’t that he was Gandhi-like or taking the moral high ground when, for instance, during one match, his German opponent called him the n-word. No, he knew enough from the example set by Arthur that it was simply smart, as a tennis player, to stay focused.

"That guy wanted to take me out of my game, make me mad," he recalls. Noting that Alexandra Stevenson has heard her share of racial epithets, Riley says, "If players know they can bother a player by talking about that player’s race, they’ll do it. This is war."

So has he spoken to Stevenson about race? No. "Alexandra’s battles are about Alex versus the ball," he says. "Throw that race stuff out the window, man. That’s a distraction. Keep your eyes on the prize."

Oct 30th, 2002, 06:29 AM
July 13, 2000

From Althea Gibson to Venus Williams
by Andrea Lewis

I was born in 1957, the year that Althea Gibson became the first black woman to win Wimbledon. Back then, Gibson's name and accomplishments were as recognized in the black community as Michael Jordan's are now.

It's taken more than four decades for another African-American woman to win the championship at the world's most respected tennis tournament. In fact, there are currently two black female champions at Wimbledon: Venus Williams and Serena Williams. Venus won the single's title and teamed up with sister Serena to win the doubles crown -- the first time sisters have ever accomplished the feat.

Yet with all of the joy surrounding the Williams' triumph, it's sad to note that Althea Gibson has been reduced to little more than a footnote in sports history.

"The first thing I thought when Venus won was, ‘Althea would have loved to be here today.’ It would have been great," tennis legend Billie Jean King told the Associated Press.

One would almost assume from those words that Gibson died long ago. In fact, Gibson is 72 years old and lives in obscurity somewhere in East Orange, N.J. The Associated Press reports that "efforts to reach (Gibson) for comment were unsuccessful."

Althea Gibson didn't just have to win matches to earn her two Wimbledon singles titles. She endured painful obstacles that most of us either can barely imagine or would just as soon forget. For years, many tournaments simply wouldn't allow Gibson to participate because of her race. In some of her early matches at Wimbledon, members of the audience would cheer Gibson's errors and lost points. Later, when Gibson modified her talents to the world of golf and the LPGA tour, she frequently had to change her shoes in her car because she wasn't allowed into the racially segregated locker rooms.

Back to the future. With their victories at this year’s tournament, the Williams sisters have stepped from Wimbledon’s center court on to center stage in the tennis world -- a world that, except for the sisters, doesn’t look much different than it did in Althea Gibson’s day. The Williamses are fast changing that image. They're stylish and beautiful, disarmingly honest and fun-loving. They play a power brand of tennis that even the most staid traditionalist finds irresistible. They're also incredibly hard workers and focused on their goals: a model for African-American and other youth from all class backgrounds.

The Williams sisters seem more interested in winning Grand Slam titles than with lofty ambitions like the one Tiger Woods expressed when he said he was dedicated to "making golf look more like America." They are, however, keenly aware of their place in history.

"It had to be hard because people were unable to see past color," Venus Williams said of Althea Gibson. "Still, these days it's hardly any different because you have to realize it has only been 40 years. How can you change years and centuries of being biased in 40 years? So, realistically, not too much has changed."

The Williamses, including father and coach Richard, have had to deal with their share of obstacles and criticism. The tales of their upbringing on the mean streets of Compton, Calif., have been well documented. Stories of father Richard's eccentricities have been rampant in the sports press. Venus, the first of the sisters to step into the harsh media spotlight, was often described as cocky and unfriendly.

As with Tiger Woods, critics have questioned the Williams' ability to finesse their athletic skills and learn from their mistakes. During the short time that they’ve been on the women’s tennis circuit, Venus and Serena have done just that.

"I'm thinking my way through matches much better than I have in the past," Venus said. "I could never understand that I didn't have to go for winners all the time. Fortunately, I found out in a small amount of time."

After this year's Wimbledon fortnight, tennis greats have begun to heap their praises on the Williams sisters.

"It just proves you don't have to belong to a rich, snazzy country club to play tennis," says multiple Grand Slam title winner Chris Evert. "Maybe now we'll build more courts in public parks, and they'll buy more equipment and balls so kids can whack a few and learn how to play the game."

Venus and Serena are following in the footsteps of Billie Jean King, Martina Navaratilova, Arthur Ashe and other inspirational athletes who opened doors and changed attitudes by displaying their talents on the tennis courts.

I hope that Althea Gibson was watching.

Andrea Lewis is a San Francisco-based writer and co-host of the "Morning Show" on KPFA Radio in Berkeley, Calif.

Copyright 2000, Andrea Lewis. Re-print or electronic distribution without permission is prohibited. Call the Progressive Media Project for information, 608-257-4626.

Oct 30th, 2002, 06:45 AM
Double fault: Tennis rips Williams sisters

Martina Hingis said Serena and Venus Williams use their race to cash in on endorsements.

"Taunts! Tantrums! Talent!"

The screaming headline in this week's Time cover story on the Williams sisters and the remarkable growth of women's tennis makes it sound as if controversy and bad manners is something specific to the women's game.

Hasn't Time ever watched Ilie Nastase or Jimmy Connors or John McEnroe?

Time should have been courtside at the first day of this year's U.S. Open, when Xavier Malisse threw a foul-mouthed fit that was so distasteful that his coach, David Felgate, left in disgust.

Tantrums and rivalries and hatreds have been part of tennis since the days women wore long skirts and men wore pants.

Professional tennis is an unusual game. Athletes travel together. They stay in the same hotels, eat in the same restaurants, dress in the same locker rooms. Then they go out to the courts and try to beat out each other's brains, with tens of thousands watching and millions of dollars at stake.

Steffi Graf, who rarely looked her opponent in the eyes after an easy early-round win, was as aloof as Garbo. Jennifer Capriati recently complained about the grunting of Monica Seles, after Seles beat her. She wasn't the first.

Friendships among the game's elite come grudgingly.

But it's even worse for the Williams sisters — Venus and Serena — because they are black, and they were the first women of their race to come into this sport and win the Grand Slams.

Everything they do is over-analyzed. Everything they do is grist for some racist comment or some double-standard reaction.

When the Williams sisters earn $17.5 million for endorsements, they are criticized for their good fortune.

"Many times (the Williams sisters) get sponsors because they are black," Martina Hingis, said in Time. "And they have had a lot of advantages because they can say it's racism. They can always come back and say, `Because we are this color, things happen.' "

Hingis, who hasn't won a major since the 1999 Australian Open probably because she is playing with her foot in her mouth, has a John Rocker-like history for trashing people who are different from her. She once called openly gay player Amelie Mauresmo "half a man."

It is safe to say Hingis isn't taking the No. 7 train to Flushing Meadows this fortnight.

She apologized for the comments published in Time — sort of — on Monday, saying, "I just said something which is not politically correct, but I don't know all the rules ... going on in this country."

The truth is, Venus and Serena are charismatic, incredibly athletic, smart and attractive. And, oh, yeah, they've already won four major championships and a combined 28 tournaments.

Venus won the Olympic gold medal in Sydney, and Venus and Serena won the doubles gold. How bankable is that?

If part of their marketability comes from the fact they are black, then hallelujah, it's about time.

They grew up in Compton, Calif., which isn't exactly the lush tennis academy world where most of the tour's best players began learning the game.

If they are haughty or stand-offish, as many of the women players have suggested, maybe it's because they weren't readily welcomed when they came on tour. Maybe there were subtle negatives they sensed from sponsors and fans and players.

In the Time story, Martina Navratilova said they have been "treated with kid gloves."

I don't agree.

This spring, when Venus pulled out of her semifinal match with Serena at the last moment, at Indian Wells, she was roundly booed.

When her often-boorish father, Richard, blamed the booing on racism, he was justly criticized.

When Serena blamed her quarterfinal loss to Capriati at Wimbledon on a stomachache and said she was "a hypochondriac," she was ripped by Capriati and the media.

When Richard Williams dances in the stands after one of his daughters wins or when he holds up incendiary signs meant to rile the fans and the tennis establishment, it is duly noted and duly blasted.

The Williams sisters sometimes don't give their opponents enough credit. They make too many excuses for their losses. They don't always make themselves available to the media.

Big deal.

They don't swear like Malisse. They don't throw rackets like Marat Safin. They rarely question line calls the way Hingis does.

They are young and black and living in a world that is so white it practically is translucent. Instead of scrounging to discover what's wrong with the Williams sisters, why don't we celebrate all that is right?

Steve Kelley can be reached at 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2002 The Seattle Times Company