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Hulet
Jun 24th, 2003, 04:53 PM
Venus brings a touch of class
Tuesday June 24, 2003


The last time she won the women's singles at Wimbledon, Venus Williams was reading Harry Potter. Yesterday, having eased through the opening round, she was happy to deny rumours that she had been seen at the weekend in a midnight queue for JK Rowling's latest.

"I might be a little old now," she said. "I'm 23. I've got to focus on things that will enrich my life a little more."

For the record, her reading list during the next fortnight will include Stephen King's Dolores Claiborne and a text book called Apparel Manufacturing. The latter is part of her continuing study of fashion and design, which has already led to the launch of her own interior design company and a line of leather accessories.

During yesterday's post-match press conference she was inevitably encouraged to spend more time discussing her latest wardrobe than analysing her dismissal of Stanislava Hrozenska, a qualifier ranked 194 among the world's women players. The match, which occupied 50 minutes, ended 6-2, 6-2. There was quite a lot to say about it, but not much to debate.

Worries have been expressed in recent months about the motivation of the champion of 2000 and 2001, particularly in the light of her sister Serena's run of success. Some feel that their close relationship might lead Venus to step away from the limelight, leaving it all to her more competitive little sister while she gets on with her outside interests.

Venus has also reached the age at which her father, who moulded his daughters into champions, said he wanted them to be out of tennis, and the apparent wavering of her motivation has encouraged some to speculate that her retirement from the circuit will not be long delayed. An abdominal injury has affected her performances in recent weeks, leading Serena to remark that she should not have played the French Open, where she lost to Vera Zvonareva in the round of 16.

As she tackled the enthusiastic 21-year-old Hrozenska, however, there were no signs of any reluctance, physical or mental, to mount a challenge for the title she surrendered to her sister a year ago.

She attacked from the start, sending three aces hissing past her Slovakian opponent at speeds of 100, 106 and 102mph before forcing an error to take the opening game. If that had not answered the questions about the effectiveness of her serve, then in her second service game she increased the muzzle velocity, banging in another hat-trick of aces which climaxed with one that caught the rim of Hrozenska's racket but barely deviated as it slammed into the stop-netting at 114mph.

Doubts about her serve started to be heard a year or so ago. Yesterday she served nine double faults in the course of the match, and it was possible to see that the perceived flaws have not been eradicated. Something is still making her rotate her hips too early, bringing her left shoulder round and opening her body up before the ball is struck, which is why a serve that was once timed at 127mph appears to have been throttled back.

The weapon that functioned outstandingly well yesterday, particularly in the first set, was her backhand, which was constantly fizzing past or across her rival. Williams wobbled only in the seventh game, when three fine forehands gave Hrozenska a glimmer of encouragement.

But there was to be no mercy in the second set, breaks in the fourth and eighth games going unanswered. Only one match-point was needed, after which a smiling Venus danced into the centre of the court and pirouetted for her admirers in her new and rather demure white frock.

This was certainly a different experience from the last time she left the court during a grand slam tournament, when her decision to bypass a French television interviewer at Roland Garros led to an outbreak of the booing also endured by her sister in the semi-final. If they were worried that European crowds had turned against them, then yesterday must have cheered them up considerably.

"It was real nice," Venus said, remarking on the crowd's even-handed treatment of her and her opponent. "I noticed that they clapped on my nice shots and they clapped on her nice shots. Really classy crowd today."

She faces a tough draw, with Nadia Petrova, Vera Zvonareva, Lindsay Davenport and Kim Clijsters potentially barring her way to a fourth consecutive final, but yesterday, at least, she looked like someone who had found her way home.

By the way, Richard Williams is not that Richard Williams :) - but the execellent sport writer from Guardian. The link for the article : http://sport.guardian.co.uk/wimbledon2003/story/0,13391,983887,00.html

Cudo's for the English crowd. They are mode definetly classy than the French ones. :)