Williams sisters building second careers
July 19, 2004
By Paul Levine
SportsTicker Contributing Writer
CARSON, California (Ticker) - Healthy and motivated, Serena and Venus Williams are hungry to regain their top rankings. But the icons of the WTA Tour are planning for the future now.
Injuries have dropped the sisters out of the top 10 for the first time since they entered it in 1998. The duo, however, is making a run as the summer hardcourt season kicked off, leading to the U.S. Open late next month.
"I'm excited to be playing here," said top-seeded Serena, who admired a bobblehead souvenir doll with her likeness Monday after joining world-famous chef Wolfang Puck in making lunch to kick off the weeklong $585,000 JPMorgan Chase Open at the Home Depot Center. "I can't wait to get on the court."
Serena will be making her first appearance Wednesday. It is the first time she is taking the court since being stunned by Russian teenager Maria Sharapova two weeks ago in the Wimbledown final, ending her two-year reign.
"I was really upset because I played so bad," she said. "I put too much pressure on myself. ... Before the tournament started, I said, 'I'm going to win, win, win,' but I couldn't perform.
"It was the first time in my career I couldn't perform. I was just so stressed out on the court. I realized I can't do that; I need to relax. I want to be so perfect - 10 out of a 10 all the time."
Serena, however, was gracious in defeat.
"Like the sign says before you walk on the court, 'If you can't meet triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors the same. ...' she said. "I read that sign every time I walk out on court. I'm a professional individual and I'm a professional in my profession. I don't make condescending remarks toward anyone, no matter how I feel inside, I don't feel that way inside."
Serena, who was sidelined for eight months after surgery last August, insisted the down time was not lost time.
"I learned a lot last year about life in general," she said. "I realized that tennis isn't the most important thing in your life and you can't take things for granted. ... I have millions and millions of things to think about."
Instead, the five-time Grand Slam winner stepped up her clothing line Aneres - Serena spelled backward - and her dream of breaking through as an actress on the silver screen.
"The clothing line is going, and I just got a new script but haven't had time to read it yet," said Serena, who designed her outfit while accepting the ESPY as top female tennis player of 2003 on Wednesday night. "It's a nice little role in a big budget movie."
Time away from the court has kept Serena from going stale like many of the touring pros who have little life outside the lines.
"I haven't been in it like 100 percent my whole career," she said. "I've always played a select amount of tournaments so I wouldn't get bored, so I could have a really, really long career over many years. I think that's perfect."
Although Venus is neither as good nor as flamboyant as her younger sister, the No. 2 seed has dreams to challenge Martha Stewart with her interior design company, V-Starr, while keeping her focus on the No. 1 ranking.
"It's nice to be back playing full-time," said Venus, who bounced back a bit from a disappointing second-round loss at Wimbledon by reaching the final of the Bank of the West Classic, losing a thrilling match to Lindsay Davenport. lost "I enjoy what I do."
Venus is happy to be healthy after suffering an abdominal strain that kept the four-time Grand Slam champion shelved for six months from Wimbledon 2003 to the 2004 Australian Open.
"I was just thinking the other day, what else am I going to do?" she said. "Obviously, I love lots of things. I love fashion, I love design, I love music, but there's time for that later. I want to do this. Obviously, I can do other things at the same time, but I want to do full-time when I play tennis."
Venus admits she is not a typical tennis player who has little interests outside the lines.
"I refuse to be confined to pressures just to play tennis because that's not reality. If you don't know how to live your life and only play sports, you're going to be in for a huge wake up call when the sport is over, You won't even know who you are, or what you like or what to do.
"I've seen it in a lot of people," she continued. "I don't want to mention names. I don't want to be critical of other people because they did their best in their life. They did the best in what they knew. I don't want to be that person."
AlThough just 24, Venus decided to start thinking and doing something about her future. Outside of her tennis and interior design firm, she has signed on with a pair of corporate fixtures.
"I work with McDonald's and American Express, which is a lot of fun," she said. "I have pride with the companies. I love them. I don't work with anyone who isn't a good match or whom I don't want to work with." And as for challenging Martha Stewart's fallen empire? "I really wasn't a Martha Stewart fan but now I am," she admitted. "I can't say I haven't thought about it. There could be some competition there. I'm trying to be smart."
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