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Mrs. Peel
Nov 13th, 2002, 08:26 PM
I thought this was a great article...it will counter much of the negativity about Serena's loss on Monday. Serena is really an inspiration....These women are fabulous!

I don't know if you can access the link if you are not registered with the times...but here goes...


Serena Can Make Loss Work for Her and Tennis


Serena Williams lost to Kim Clijsters, 7-5, 6-3, Monday night in the finals of the Home Depot WTA Championships, and it was the best thing that could have happened to women's tennis.

It is most important to keep Serena interested.

"I like that I didn't win today," Serena said, "because I'm so motivated right now to win the Australian Open. It's like last year when I didn't play the Australian, I got super-motivated. I told myself I was going to win the French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open."

Done, done and emphatically done. That's just the kind of person Serena is. A go-getter.

So let's expect that Williams will find herself a little more stamina. She admitted she was winded against Clijsters after being pushed hard by Jennifer Capriati on Sunday in the semifinals. But Serena has learned to figure things out. About her game, about herself. She'll do it again.

Before the match, important men wearing suits came forward to talk about how committed everybody is to bring these championships back to Staples Center. It hasn't been a secret that attendance was dismal at times and, at best, barely satisfactory. Some of the players had been openly lethargic, which resulted in some non-competitive matches.

But everybody is happy, the suits said. The tournament, which had left Munich after barely touching down last year, will be here again next year, the suits said. They kept talking about "a long-term commitment," which is vaguely optimistic. And there was lots of talk about "strong brands" and "brand association" and "strong brand situations."

Right now, the most important brand women's tennis has is Serena Williams. Therefore it is important to keep Serena healthy, happy and challenged.

Serena is a personality. She is engaging and attractive. She is physically imposing with an iron athletic will. She pushes herself on the tennis court — her game is not only about power now, but about angles and touch and changing the pace — and her life off the court is filled with acting gigs and fashion shows.

Serena is fun, she is pretty in pink, a tigress in black and she has managed to make all the other women, even her older sister Venus, invisible. She has rarely been pushed on the tennis court this year. Until Monday night, Serena had lost only four matches this year, and one of those was a mid-match retirement because of an ankle injury that kept her out of the Australian Open.

That ankle injury might have kept Serena from a Grand Slam sweep this year because the 21-year-old won the other three biggies — the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

Luckily, Serena has a goal for next year. Winning them all.

Because women's tennis is in a terrible place if Serena gets bored with the sport and more fascinated with her other interests, you know, the acting and the fashion.

A week before the championships, Serena had a guest appearance on the Damon Wayans sitcom, "My Wife and Kids." Reviews were positive. Serena was a natural. She's now enthusiastic about some off-season auditions.

"A couple of different movie roles," Serena, woman of mystery, said. "I'm really, really, really excited. I'm going to try to slim up."

This has been a year of revelation about Serena. She has grown up, as an athlete and a personality. With a new composure, she discovered her belief in her ability and her desire to beat everybody, even her role model, her best friend, her confessor, her practice partner — Venus.

Serena also has grown comfortable with everything that comes with being the No. 1 player. She loved the attention her controversial, physique-baring outfits brought to the U.S. Open. She can deconstruct her game and herself — "Sometimes, for me," she said, "I need to take a step back and say to myself, 'Keep going ahead.' "

That's a worthwhile discovery from a young woman about herself. Serena accepted this slap-in-the-face loss from Clijsters as a good thing, as a way to move into the brief tennis off-season with an emphatic reason to train hard and refresh for January.

What women's tennis has in Serena Williams is something it has not had before. Women's tennis has a cross-over personality.

Serena is a winner, as an athlete. As an actress. As a young woman who knows what she wants and who she is.

Serena can bring to tennis Hollywood glitz, Madison Avenue pizazz, streetwise kids. They were all at Staples Center Monday.

Kevin Wulff, CEO of the WTA, did notice something about the Los Angeles crowds. These were some of the most "ethnically diverse" crowds Wulff said he had seen anywhere. They were at Staples Monday mostly to see Serena.

They love her long, blond hair. They love it when she wears the skin-tight black bodysuit and when she wears the little black skirt and Lycra pink sleeveless blouse with a strategic cut-out so that Serena's bellybutton ring shines brightly.

As outrageously nontraditional as her clothing is, Williams also speaks with emotion about winning a very traditional tournament, Wimbledon, for the first time as her season's high point. Because, she said, "I always wanted to win Wimbledon, hold up that trophy with all the history behind it."

When the new tennis season begins in Australia, all eyes will be on Serena. Can she win a fourth straight Grand Slam? What will she wear? What movie did she audition for? What fun did she have? For now, it's all about Serena.

Diane Pucin can be reached at: diane.pucin@latimes.com.

TSequoia01
Nov 13th, 2002, 11:12 PM
I always love it when Serena loses right before a slam. Things were beginning to get a bit too easy and routine. She needed more reasons to get out there and improve her game. Just when you thought it was safe to go back on court. Get'em Rena. :cool: