Venus enjoying life out of spotlight
By PATRICK OBLEY
CHARLESTON — Earlier this year, Richard Williams suggested one of his daughters ought to consider retiring from tennis.
For the record, neither Serena nor Venus Williams has any idea what their dad is talking about. Both are in the field at this week’s Family Circle Cup. It’s a rare circumstance that finds the two
sisters in the same non-Grand Slam field.
That said, Venus Williams’ absence from the court until last month’s Nasdaq-100 Open was noticeable.
In fact, the 23-year-old seems to have slipped into the large shadow cast by her younger sister during a lengthy, injury-imposed exile. But there’s something else at work, something other than injuries, playing a larger role in her fade from public view.
Serena Williams makes television appearances and designs clothes in her time away from the court. When Venus aggravated an abdominal muscle injury during last year’s Wimbledon final against Serena, she missed the remainder of the season and withdrew.
With days no longer centered around tennis, she reveled in life’s smaller details. She dove into her poetry and concentrated on guitar lessons. She took delight in the most mundane tasks, such as getting the mail.
She played in five tournaments in the past year, dropping her from the top five in the WTA rankings to No. 17 overall. It’s her lowest ranking since her first full year on the tour in 1997.
If there was ever a time to quietly step away from the game, that time would appear to have been 2004.
“I just love playing, love competing, whether it’s as a top-ranked player or a lower-ranked player,” she said. “I still love being out there.”
Her most recent comeback began in earnest at last month’s Nasdaq-100 Open. She reached the quarterfinals before losing to fifth-ranked Elena Dementieva.
“It was a good tournament for me. I got to play a lot of matches,” she said. “I had a bad match toward the end, but that was fine because I still did well in the tournament.”
That rather simple statement sums up Venus Williams’ approach to life. She makes a point of looking at the silver linings, rather than the gray clouds.
“I try to find the positive in things,” she said. “I’m not really looking at the disadvantages this year with my injuries.”
While another player would be concerned about slipping out of the top 10, Venus delights in the fact she is still in the top 20.
“Really, think about it. How often do you have only five tournaments and are still in the top 20?” she said. “I played about five events, won one, and three were finals. That’s good, I think.”
It would appear that retirement truly isn’t on her calendar.
“I’m just about doing my personal best,” she said. “If I get to a point where I can’t do that, then that’s when I will need to let it go.”
Those guitar lessons will just have to wait.
Reach Obley at (803) 771-8473 or [email protected]
IF YOU GO
• What: Family Circle Cup
• Where: Family Circle Tennis Center at Daniel Island, Charleston
• Prize money: $1.3 million; $189,000 for singles winner; $57,000 for doubles winners, $29,000 for finalists
• Draw: 56 singles, 28 doubles pairs
• 2003 winners: Justin Henin-Hardenne (singles); Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suarez (doubles).
• Television: Thursday-Friday: 2-3:30 p.m. on ESPN; Saturday: 2-4 p.m. on ESPN2; Sunday 1-3 p.m. on ESPN2