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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old Apr 3rd, 2003, 12:07 PM Thread Starter
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Owl Foundation

Venus and Monica To Meet Serena And Jana In Charity Doubles Event For OWL Foundation

By Richard Pagliaro
04/03/2003

Serena Williams started the season by setting an ambitious — and historic — goal for herself: to complete the 2003 campaign undefeated. Three months have passed and the top-ranked Williams' pursuit of perfection is not only progressing as planned, it appears entirely possible she can complete her quest.


The player closest to Serena — both in the rankings and in life — is big-sister Venus, who has lost four consecutive Grand Slam finals to Serena, and believes her sister has "a great chance" to sustain the success that has seen her register a 17-0 record so far and ultimately produce a perfect season.

"I definitely think she has a great chance to do it," Venus said. "She already has a really unbelievable record."

The four-time Grand Slam champion started the season playing sound tennis before falling to Serena in the Australian Open final. It appeared Venus had stepped up her intensity level a bit when she slammed second-seeded Kim Clijsters, 6-2, 6-4 to claim the Proximus Diamond Games championship in Antwerp, Belgium in February. Williams followed that victory by issuing a good-natured challenge to her sister: "If you want to challenge me here, Serena, if you are watching, come on," Venus said.

The momentum Venus began building at the start of the season has faded a bit as she skipped Indian Wells for the second straight season then saw her second serve exposed and her forehand exploited in suffering a 7-6(2), 6-1 defeat to Meghann Shaughnessy in the fourth round of the Nasdaq-100 Open last week.

Tennis has always been part of Venus' life, but never her sole purpose in life.

Responding to reports that her interest in regaining the top spot has subsided as she pursues other interests such as her interior design business, the second-ranked Venus said today she's still committed to her tennis career.

"I just had a bad day — everyone has a bad day," Williams said in assessing her early exit from Key Biscayne. "Everyone has an opinion. I'm feeling great. I'm going to be at home (training) and after that going to Europe to prepare for the French Open."

Venus and Serena will join forces with Shaughnessy and Alexandra Stevenson on the United States' Fed Cup team that hosts the Czech Republic in the Fed Cup first-round tie set for April 26-27th, at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Mass. The presence of the Williams sisters on the squad inspired a sell-out in Lowell and Fed Cup captain Billie Jean King suggested last week the sisters may play doubles together in that tie.

In a conference call with the media today to promote her participation in the JPMorgan Chase Tennis Challenge benefiting The OWL Foundation, which is being held on Saturday at the Naples Bath & Tennis Club, Williams discussed playing doubles against her sister. Venus and Monica Seles will take on Serena and 1998 Wimbledon winner Jana Novotna in a best-of-three-set doubles exhibition that will follow the event's featured singles match between Serena and Seles.

"I almost always play with Serena so it will be interesting to play with Monica," Venus said. "The first thing that I think is that I want to make sure the audience has a really good match. Even when I'm playing professionally, it's entertainment. They (fans) want to come and see a great match; they want to see competitiveness and it's really the same thing, they're coming to see Serena, Monica Seles and Venus and I want to do the best I can."

The OWL Foundation, was founded in 1999 by Oracene Price, mother of Venus Williams and Serena Williams. The OWL Foundation funds programs that address learning problems for students experiencing academic failure. Its stated mission is "to insure that every child is given the opportunity to reach his or her full potential."

Williams said her mother's desire to contribute to charitable causes dates back to before the birth of her famous children.

"My mom has always wanted to help children and to help people and even when she was younger, before any of her kids were here, she wanted to be involved," Venus said. "She wanted to be somewhat of a social worker. Now she has the opportunity to help...and when she calls me (to help), I'm there."

You can be there too. Tickets to this Saturday's even can be purchased by calling TicketMaster at (239) 334-3309. Reserved Seats are $50. Event director Michele Cope said less than 300 reserved seats remain available in the 3,860-seat stadium.

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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old Apr 3rd, 2003, 03:35 PM
 
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Is this being televised?? I remember last year or year before it being televised--anyone??
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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old Apr 7th, 2003, 01:21 PM Thread Starter
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Tennis: Serena Williams' session is simply grand

Saturday, April 5, 2003

By TOM HANSON, [email protected]



When the members of Naples Bath & Tennis Club arrived for dinner Friday night, little did they know that Serena Williams would be headlining the evening's entertainment.

Along with the prime rib buffet, the guests were treated to an informal exhibition by Williams, the reigning champion of all four Grand Slam events.

The real treat belonged to Helene Smith of Visalia, Calif., who had the privilege of playing a half hour with Williams, who will be playing in the JPMorgan Chase Tennis Challenge today with sister Venus, Monica Seles, and Jana Novotna.

Last September, in The Hamptons, N.Y., Smith's future son-in-law, Donald Torasco, bid $17,000 as part of a charity auction for the hitting session, which included tickets to both today's JPMorgan Chase Tennis Challenge and the OWL Foundation Gala featuring Roberta Flack to follow.

"I saw this up for auction and jokingly said, 'Wouldn't this be your worst nightmare, playing against someone so overpowering and dominates on her own tour?'," Smith said to Torasco. "Little did I know that he would get this for me."

But much to her delight, Smith's so-called worst nightmare became a dream come true.

Smith greeted Williams, who was decked out in a bright orange and yellow tank top, with white capris and matching white and orange tennis shoes, with a larger-than-life card that read "thank you for the greatest moment of my life." The gesture earned Smith a hug.

As the two exchanged baseline volleys and just as many laughs, the crowd grew from 11 to over 100, as the word spread that the No. 1 women's tennis player in the world was out on the clay courts.

"We came for some cocktails and I noticed that Serena was out on the court playing," said Janet Kauffman of Naples.

"We're glad to have her in our back yard."

After 10 minutes of simple returns, Williams stopped to give Smith, 59, a quick lesson.

As local instructor Ido Abougzir served the ball, Williams said, "There is just one thing" and showed Smith a little trick that her father, Richard, taught her as a little girl.

"She told me something that her daddy always told her about hitting a forehand, that you should always have your elbow up," Smith said. "She remembered that when she started not getting them over the net, her father would say, 'Get the elbow up, get the elbow up'."

The lesson was an instant success as Smith started returning the ball with more authority.

Noticing the improvement, Williams started picking up the pace herself. And even though the velocity wasn't even half of tournament speed, the crisp returns drew ooohs and aaahs from the well-dressed spectators as they sipped on their Chardonnays and Cabernets.

The entire time Smith's husband Mike, clicked pictures with his disposable camera.

"This is pretty big stuff for us," he said. "We are just ordinary people, so this is a great day."

Williams, however, is far from ordinary.

In the past 12 months, she has dominated women's tennis. Besides winning 11 times, Williams has captured the last four consecutive major titles, which she has appropriately tabbed the "Serena Slam." And she hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. This season she is currently unbeaten with a record of 17-0.

The 2002 Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year has quickly become one of the most intimidating forces in sport. Her presence on the court strikes fear in the most worthy opponent. But with her infectious smile and soft-spoken voice, she seems the least bit intimidating.

"If I am intimidating, I don't know it," said Williams with a sheepish grin. "I can see where people are saying that, but look, I didn't intimidate Helene."

Smith agreed.

"It wasn't scary, she's the least intimidating person," Smith said. "She was very gracious and genuine."

Williams comes to Naples to participate in a match today, which starts at 1 p.m., that will benefit the OWL Foundation.

The 21-year-old will face Seles, a nine-time Grand Slam champion, in a best-of-three match.

Then Seles will team with Williams' older sister Venus, who has four Grand Slam titles of her own, in a pro-set doubles match against Serena and Novotna. The event will be capped off by a gala at 7 p.m.

As of Friday night there were less than 20 tickets remaining for the matches. Tickets for the gala are $200 and can be purchased at the ticket booth on site.

The heart and soul of the OWL Foundation is Williams' mother, Oranece Price.

Through her charity, Price hopes to give children who have learning problems an opportunity to reach their full potential.

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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old Apr 7th, 2003, 01:22 PM Thread Starter
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Tennis: Serena steals show vs. Seles

Sunday, April 6, 2003

By TOM HANSON, [email protected]

It may have been only an exhibition, but Serena Williams dazzled a sold-out crowd at the Naples Bath & Tennis Club on Saturday and proved why she is the No. 1 women's player in the world.

With a combination of power, speed, finesse and desire, the 21-year-old — undefeated in 2003 — topped Monica Seles, 6-4, 6-4 in the JPMorgan Chase Tennis Challenge.

In the doubles portion of the charity exhibition, Williams also came up victorious and in the process, claiming family bragging rights.

She and Jana Novotna needed a tiebreak to defeat sister Venus Williams and Brenda Schultz- McCarthy, 8-7 (8-6).

The real winner on the day was the OWL Foundation, whose founder is Oracene Price, the Williamses' mother. Thanks to the 3,860 spectators and the Gala featuring Roberta Flack, more than $150,000 was raised for the charity, surpassing last year's total when the event was held in Delray Beach.

The foundation helps underprivileged children with academic problems by initiating after-school programs. Some of the proceeds will go to the Education Foundation of Collier County.

After besting Seles, Williams wanted to concentrate on the main objective.

"This one doesn't count," said Williams, who is 17-0 this season including three titles. "It's for the kids, it's for the foundation, it's for learning."

Actually, Williams, who is the reigning champion of all four Grand Slam events, looked lethargic at the start.

Monica Seles gave the number one player Williams a run for her money Saturday but proved to be no match for the youngest of the Williams pair. Michel Fortier/Staff

The turning point in the match came with the score tied at 3 in the first set. With an enough-is-enough mindset, Williams started matching Seles grunt-for-grunt.

With the first set tied at 4, Williams took control thanks to a couple of delicate drop shots. The 21-year-old was able to break Seles' serve and go on to win the first set, 6-4.

"I had a few double faults there but I was able to bring it up and give a good match for the crowd," said Williams.

The second set was much of the same, including Williams breaking Seles' serve with the score tied at 4. Seles, who has nine career Grand Slam titles, did try to give Williams a workout, running her back and forth across the baseline. Williams, however, was relentless, showing off her athleticism, while giving the sun-baked crowd some thrilling saves.

After entertaining the fans on the court in the singles match, Seles, wanting to rest her injured foot, retired to the official's chair.

Schultz-McCarthy, a seven-time tour winner, filled in as Venus Williams' partner


Serena Williams flashes a big smile after beating Monica Seles in two sets, 6-4, 6-4, in Saturday's charity matchup designed to help the OWL Foundation. Michel Fortier/Staff

Compared to a semi-serious singles match, the doubles competition was more like a night at The Improv, with Seles adding much of the levity from her post.

In the beginning, Venus Williams got a little greedy, and tried to steal a point at the net but instead nearly knocked the ball into the stands.

The uncharacteristic move caused both Williams to start laughing hysterically, causing the match to stop for few seconds.

Later, Venus shuffled her feet like a boxer.

She then proceeded to nail Novotna in the left arm with an up-close return.

"This was like a dream come true," said Carlo Migliore of Naples. "To be able to see the best two players in the world. And actually the tennis was pretty good for an exhibition."

The doubles match marked the first time that the sisters have been on the opposite side of the court in doubles competition.

"I usually know what she is thinking and can figure out what she is going to do in advance," Venus Williams said. "It wasn't like it was match point at a Grand Slam. It was fun.

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post #5 of 4 (permalink) Old Apr 7th, 2003, 01:26 PM Thread Starter
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Tennis: Serena Williams explains; a Family Circle moment; mom sings

Monday, April 7, 2003

By TOM HANSON, [email protected]


Serena Williams says she is sorry if she offended anyone with her attempt at humor following the recent Nasdaq-100 Open in Key Biscayne.



Tom Hanson is a member of the Daily News' sports staff.

After winning her third title of the year, Williams was asked about the anti-French sentiment in the United States stemming from the war in Iraq.

With a dissident French accent, Williams said, "Well, we don't want to play in the war. We want to make clothes. We don't want the war."

Her statement drew "tactless" remarks from French reporters.

After playing at Naples Bath & Tennis Club on Saturday, Williams said she realized trying to be funny about such sensitive subject was inappropriate.

"I hope people understand I am young and I make mistakes," said Williams, 21. "I never meant to hurt the French. I love the French. My heart is in France."

Williams hopes the comments will not held against her when she travels to Paris to defend her French Open title, May 26-June 9.

Before she can start thinking about the French Open, Williams has another objective.

"I have never won the Family Circle Cup," said Williams, who is 17-0 this season. "I would like to add that to my resume."

The Family Circle Cup starts today in Charleston. S.C. The event will mark Williams' first clay court appearance of the year.

She said Saturday's JPMorgan Chase Tennis Challenge exhibition was a good warm-up.

"I have actually been practicing for a few days on the clay and my game feels good," said Williams, who defeated Monica Seles, 6-4, 6-4. "I still need a little work on the sliding though."

Williams will not be joined by Seles at this week's Family Circle Cup due to recovering from a stress fracture in her left foot.

After Saturday's singles match, Seles pulled out of the doubles competition as a precautionary measure.

"It still feels OK but I still want to be careful with it," said Seles, who is ranked No. 12 in the world. "This was a great test for it and it's getting better but it still has a way to go."


The highlight of Saturday night's OWL Foundation Gala at Naples Bath & Tennis Club was a surprise performance by Oracene Price, the charity founder and mother of Venus and Serena Williams.

Price showed her thanks to her daughters by singing Whitney Houston's The Greatest Love of All.The performance received a standing ovation from the 220 patrons and drew tears from the Williams sisters.

Not to be out done, Roberta Flack played past her scheduled time, ending her concert with a classic rendition of Killing Me Softly.

The gala also featured a silent auction. The top-prize, two box seats at this year's Wimbledon Championship, raised $3,000 for the OWL Foundation.

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