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Old Aug 16th, 2001, 07:41 PM   #1
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Arrow Serena mixes style, power

Mary Ormsby
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Williams says sex appeal sells tennis, dresses accordingly

She's nothing if not a glorious sight when in motion.

Long blond braids swung between her shoulder blades, cascading from a cone of hair atop her head (very Barbara Eden, actually, for those who remember I Dream of Jeannie). Then there was the jewellery. Glittering strands of earrings jangled from each lobe, a diamond-encrusted heart bounced on a fine silver necklace, four coloured elastic bands encircled her right wrist while her left held a sweat-slicked watch and silver bracelet.

Just try to imagine how Serena Williams would accessorize if she wasn't playing tennis in a million-dollar tournament.

Hey, what? Consider this sexist coverage, discussing how Williams looks?

Hardly.

What she wears - including the personalized Pumas that read "Serena," along with the skin-tight tank top that revealed magnificently sculpted shoulder muscles - and how she presents herself is all part of what makes Ms. Williams such a mammoth package of personality and power on the WTA Tour.

For instance, after winning her first match at the Rogers AT&T Cup at the National Tennis Centre yesterday, the fourth-seeded Williams covered as much ground in her news conference as she did in dumping Croatian Iva Majoli, 7-6 (7-2), 6-1. Such as:

On how sex (i.e., the Anna Kournikova Factor) helps sell women's tennis: "People like to watch feminine ladies, and ladies should be feminine. And I'm all for being feminine. If I was a golfer, I'd wear a skirt."

If women are ready to play five sets instead of three: "I am."

On her changed eating habits, claiming to be - ahem - a size 6 at 5-foot-10 and 145 pounds: "I really cut back on my eating. I'm now a size 6, and I'm really proud of that, sorry!"

On why a recent hours-long online shopping spree attracted so much media attention: "I didn't think it would be that big (a story), either."

And finally, her take on what she does for a living: "What's most important is we're making people watch (tennis). ... Actually, we're all entertainers, whether we're sports heroes or music stars. ..."

In reflecting on her improved conditioning over the past year, Williams dissolved into a fit of giggles.

"I guess I feel more fit, more fast," said Williams, who next plays No. 15, Barbara Schett of Austria.

"You know, you're always feeling better the lighter you are. You just feel happier, just not as heavy."

Then she lost it, laughing at her own description.

But no one was laughing at Williams when she struggled initially against Majoli before crushing her in the second set. The Croatian put up a fight in the early going, while the American had trouble controlling the range of her groundstrokes. But after dominating the tiebreak, Williams returned to usual form: Punishing serves, powerful strokes, merciless winners.

Williams turns 20 next month and is trying to become centred again in a season that has been interrupted by illness and injuries. She'd like to get in a full week's worth of matches in Toronto to fine-tune for the U.S. Open - and possibly wrest the trophy from Venus.

"Every tournament for me is really important, but now that I'm only two weeks away from the Open, this one is even more (so)," said Williams, who won the Open in 1999.
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