JP Morgan Chase Open 2004
Serena Sets Sights On Regaining Top Spot
Photo By Ron Angle By Richard Pagliaro
Playing proficiently powerful tennis, Maria Sharapova seemed to fast-forward through the Wimbledon final directly to the climactic championship point. The 17-year-old Sharapova's 6-1, 6-4 victory over two-time defending champion Serena Williams was the most one-sided Wimbledon women's final in 12 years.
Refusing to wait for an encore presentation of the match, one interested viewer has sat in front of the television tapping the rewind button to review the surprising story line shot-by-shot — Serena Williams.
Watching her most lopsided loss in major final, Williams has seen herself reviewing her notes during changeovers before coming to the conclusion she failed to follow the script she wrote for the final.
"I watch all my matches and I think with (watching) that one in particular I felt so much 'What was I thinking out there?' " Williams said in a conference call with the media today. "It's kind of funny because I didn't do any of the things I planned on doing or that I had done in a few other matches previously. It was really, actually positive because I thought "Wow, I was playing at 5 percent." "
The 13th-seeded Sharapova's powerful performance prevented Williams from playing to her potential and reduced the six-time Grand Slam champion to the role of runner-up, but she insists it hasn't prompted her to re-evaluate her priorities.
"Well, right now my focus is tennis — that's all I really want to do is play tennis, practice and get better so that's my main goal right now," Williams said. "I've been working on some stuff on the court (and) as long as I do well in practice by the time my main goal, which is the U.S. Open, rolls around I think I'll have a really good chance."
The two-time U.S. Open champion said she's eager to embark on an extensive hard-court summer schedule in preparation to recapture the U.S. Open crown she won two years ago. Williams has reached the Flushing Meadows final in three of her last four appearances and owns a 26-3 record at the Open, including a 13-1 mark in her last two appearances.
The former No.1 is convinced she is close to regaining the physical form she showed in sweeping five of the six majors she played in 2002-03 and believes movement and match play are the primary areas she must work on in this summer surge toward the season's final Slam.
"I'm almost there. I had major surgery a year ago this time and I'm almost back to where I was, so that's great," Williams said. "Just being out there and moving the way I want to move (is what's missing), but I think I'm just about there."
Barring withdrawal, Williams is scheduled to compete in five tournaments — next week's JPMorgan Chase Open; the Acura Classic in San Diego, which starts the last week of July; the Rogers AT&T Cup the first week of August; the Athens Olympic Games, August 15th-22nd and the U.S. Open, which begins August 30th — during the next seven weeks. It is an ambitious schedule that would be Williams' most sustained stretch of tennis in recent years — should she compete in each event — and place her in some of the same tournament draws as older sister Venus.
Occupying an unfamiliar position outside the top 10 for the first time in nearly five years, the 14th-ranked Williams said playing such a demanding schedule is necessary if she is to realize her goal of regaining her prominent position at the top of tennis.
"It's just a coincidence (that we've entered some of the same events) and not only that we love to play the events," said Williams, who has entered only six events so far this season. "You know, we need to be there: I need points, she needs points and hopefully we can get our rankings back to where they once were, which is number one and number two . So in order to do that you have to play some tournaments. You know, I wasn't able to play until March so I really had to pick up some tournaments because the Tour made me play some extra ones."
Dismissing suggestions that her setback to Sharapova was a wake-up call, Williams said she prefers to view her run to the Wimbledon final from a positive perspective as a significant step in her comeback from knee surgery.
"I hadn't picked up a racquet in six months (after surgery)," Williams said. "I expected to be back in six weeks after surgery and six months later I'm just picking up a racquet. So, I mean, who's not going to be off? I was pretty much shot for eight months; looking at the positive: I made a really good effort just in general and actually have gone beyond the call of duty."
The 22-year-old Williams, who underwent surgery to repair a partial tear in the mid-portion of her quadriceps tendon of her left knee on August 2nd, had hoped to return to tournament tennis last fall. The initial eight week rehab extended into eight months as questions concerning Williams' commitment to the sport she has dominated began to emerge.
Health concerns became the least of her worries as Williams' world was tragically altered last September when oldest sister Yetunde Price was shot to death in Compton, California on September 14th, about a mile from the public tennis courts where Venus and Serena learned to play tennis. Serena, who has said Yetunde's murder put tennis into perspective for her and reinforced her belief that the importance of family transcends tennis and other career pursuits, alluded to the toll the tragedy has taken on her during today's interview.
"I don't think anyone really realizes what I went through, off the court as well," Williams said. "It really hasn't been the easiest times of my life, period."
Asked to elaborate on the experience of living through the most painful period of her life, Williams declined.
"No. It's too difficult for me to talk about," Williams said. "It hasn't been easy for any of our family."
While Williams will continue to pursue her acting career, she said she's completely comfortable being cast in the role of tennis player.
"I think I'll be regarded, no matter what happens, as a great tennis player because I've made history and I'm nowhere near being finished making history," Williams said. "Myself and my sister we've changed the game and not only that we've brought a whole new crowd of people to the game and that's like Tiger Woods in golf."
Serena takes blame for loss
Serena Williams has admitted she has only herself to blame for her defeat to Maria Sharapova in the Wimbledon final.
Sharapova hit back from 4-2 down in the second set to win and Williams said: "I put so much pressure on myself.
"I didn't do anything I was planning on doing or had done in previous matches and I couldn't relax before the match - I'm a perfectionist."
However Williams is determined to bounce back and added: "All I want to do is play tennis and get better."
Williams and sister Venus are both playing in next week's JP Morgan Chase Open in Carson, California.
"I need points, she needs points. We're both trying to get our rankings back to number one and number two where they were before," she said.
"I'm hoping to play a lot over the summer and have a lot of match play under my belt by the time the US Open comes."
Meanwhile Jennifer Capriati has withdrawn from the tournament because of a hamstring injury, following Sharapova who pulled out because of fatigue.
Serena spurred by Sharapova defeat
Tue 20 July, 2004 09:33
By Matthew Cronin
LOS ANGELES, July 20 (Reuters) - Serena Williams feels her shock defeat by Maria Sharapova in the Wimbledon final will spur her on to regain the top spot in the rankings.
The six-times grand slam champion was dislodged as world number one last August, when she was sidelined with a knee injury, and has since slipped to 16th.
While Sharapova's Wimbledon triumph earlier this month left Serena without a grand slam title for the first time since May 2002, the American believes she will soon regain her form.
"She didn't have anything to lose and I put too much pressure on myself," Serena said before her first-round match on Wednesday at the JP Morgan Chase Open.
"I don't even think of her. I just think about the present, the future and me. I need to focus more on me. If I keep working hard, I'll be back where I belong."
Serena returned to the tour in March after spending eight months recuperating from knee surgery.
Since winning her comeback tournament in Miami, the American has struggled to regain the form which made her the holder of all four grand slam titles following last year's Australian Open -- a feat she dubbed the 'Serena Slam'
Serena's victory at the Nasdaq-100 Open remains the high point of her 2004 season and her only title.
The 22-year-old accepted she might have set the bar too high for herself following her comeback.
"Maria played well and I was really disappointed but now I think that after not playing for more than eight months, it wasn't that bad," said Serena. "No one really knows about all the rehab I had to go through.
Serena, whose sister Yetunde Price was shot dead last September in a Los Angeles suburb, added: "I learned a lot last year about life in general. I realised that tennis isn't the most important thing in your life and you can't take things for granted."
Having skipped the second half of last year, the American has nothing to lose for the rest of the season as she does not have any ranking points to defend until March 2005.
"When I was dominant, I was playing every week. I'm going to get back there," she said.
Although Serena may no longer be the force she once was, she reigns supreme as a tennis celebrity.
On Monday, she became the first women's tennis player to have a souvenir bobble-head doll created in her likness.
"It's amazing," she said. "But I guess that happens when you become overly famous. Every week now, I get more famous."
Serena preparing to star on the court
Top seed busy with Hollywood social life
By Lauren Gustus , Staff Writer
Serena Williams was at the premiere of the summer blockbuster "The Bourne Supremacy" in Hollywood on Thursday. And she was serenaded by host Jamie Foxx at the ESPYs, the awards show that aired Sunday night on ESPN.
Oh, and the part-time actress/full-time tennis player is looking forward to her matches this week at the JPMorgan Chase Open in Carson, after a surprising loss to 17-year old Maria Sharapova of Russia in the finals at Wimbledon.
"I watched all my matches, of course," Williams said. "With that one in particular I thought to myself, 'What was I thinking out there?' It's kind of funny because I realized I didn't do anything that I planned on doing."
Sharapova visited with Jay Leno on Friday and she told the late-night host she didn't expect a victory over Williams.
"I never really thought about it," Sharapova said. "I guess maybe now she's beatable."
Sharapova withdrew from the JPMorgan Chase Open last week, saying she needed to rest after her unexpected run to the Wimbledon title. Defending champion Kim Clijsters won't play either. She's been sidelined since March with a wrist injury.
But the event, which returns to Carson for the second year after a 21-year stint in Manhattan Beach, has drawing power with top-seeded Serena and sister Venus, the No. 2 seed.
Lindsay Davenport, a winner over Venus in the Bank of the West Classic final Sunday in Stanford, rounds out the top three. With the exception of No. 6 Ai Sugiyama of Japan, the remaining seeded players are from Russia.
Serena, the WTA Tour's biggest draw and the No. 1 seed, has not regained her pre-knee surgery form. The six-time Grand Slam winner had surgery for a partial tear in her left quadriceps nearly a year ago and her recovery took longer than expected.
"I hadn't picked up a racket in six months," Serena said. "I expected to be back in six weeks. I didn't expect to be out that long."
Since the return, she's reached the semifinals of the French Open and finals of Wimbledon. For any other player those would be satisfactory results. But for Serena, a former World No. 1 whose ranking has dipped to No. 14, more is expected.
"I put so much pressure on myself and do well," Serena said. "I'm a perfectionist."
Serena will use the summer hardcourt season as a warm-up for the U.S. Open, a Grand Slam event she's won twice but missed last year because of the knee injury. She won the JPMorgan Chase Open in 1999 and '00.
"Right now my focus is tennis," Serena said. "That's all I really want to do is play tennis and practice and get better."
It could be the last time Davenport, who lives in Laguna Beach, will play her hometown tournament. The 28-year old has been bothered by an achy knee and would like to start a family.
French Open runner-up Elena Dementieva, of Russia, is the No. 4 seed and Svetlana Kuznetsova is No. 5. Nadia Petrova is No. 7 and No. 8 Vera Zvonareva received the last seed. Lauren Gustus, (818) 713-3607 [email protected]
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."
Los Angeles: Wolfgang Puck poses with top seeds Serena Williams, Nadia Petrova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Ai Sugiyama, Elena Dementieva and Vera Zvonareva after he introduced "Courtside Cuisine" where the players participated and helped Wolfgang cook a dish and also tasted his fine cuisine.
U.S. tennis star Serena Williams poses with a bobble head doll replica of herself to be given away to fans at the JP Morgan Chase Open which Williams will play in, in Carson, California, July 19, 2004.
Serena Williams! LOOKS BEAUTIFUL!
Serena Williams, Davenport advance in JPMorgan Chase Open
BETH HARRIS, AP Sports Writer
http://sfgate.com/templates/types/un...hics/clear.gifThursday, July 22, 2004
(07-22) 18:12 PDT CARSON, Calif. (AP) --
Serena Williams defeated Aranxta Parra Santonja 6-0, 6-3 in 53 minutes Thursday to lead a parade of seeded players into the JPMorgan Chase Open quarterfinals.
The top-seeded Williams rolled through the first set and was up 3-0 in the second when the Spaniard won three straight games. Williams regrouped and reeled off the final three games in front of a sparse crowd in the 8,000-seat Home Depot Center stadium.
"She changed up her game and I had to adjust," said Williams, who played in a lime green dress with wide pleats and gold chandelier earrings. "At first, she was making a lot of errors, then she was hitting lobs. I got used to that pretty quick."
Among those watching Williams was Detroit Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince, who is from nearby Dominguez Hills. They met two weeks ago at the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles.
Third-seeded Lindsay Davenport needed one hour to beat 15th-seeded Amy Frazier 6-2, 6-4.
No. 2 seed Venus Williams was to play Elena Likhovtseva of Russia in a night match.
Other third-round winners Thursday: No. 4 Elena Dementieva, 7-5, 7-6 (8) over 14th-seeded Chanda Rubin; No. 5 Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-3, 6-0 over Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi; and No. 7 Nadia Petrova over Jelena Kostanic, 6-3, 6-2.
No. 6 Ai Sugiyama was the only seed among the top eight who lost. She was beaten 6-3, 0-6, 7-6 (3) by No. 11 Francesca Schiavone.
Nearly a year ago, Williams had left knee surgery that forced her off the WTA Tour for six months. She was operated on Aug. 1 and wasn't able to defend her U.S. Open title or play the Australian Open in January.
She lost her No. 1 ranking, but Williams said the time off was well spent.
"I was excited to get some time off. I got to live life a little bit, too," she said. "I enjoyed myself. I even lost my rackets temporarily. I hadn't picked them up in so long. I had to really think about which home I left them in."
For the first time in years, Williams didn't wake up before noon. Of course, she stayed out later too, enjoying the final two months of being 21.
"It was the most calming period of my life," she said. "You're only 21 once."
But her good times were cut short on Sept. 14, when her half-sister Yetunde Price was fatally shot in Compton.
Frazier has never beaten Davenport in 10 career meetings, but it was the most games she has taken off Davenport since 1998, when Frazier lost the only three-set match they have played in Philadelphia. "She faces much more of an uphill battle than I do," Davenport said. "I knew I could break her serve at any moment." Davenport sported a silver disc necklace with the word `WIFE' on it. Asked about the necklace, which was a gift from her husband of one year, Davenport said, "Oh God, it's embarrassing. It's just something funny he found."
Venus Williams celebrates her 6-2, 6-1 second-round win over Ashley Harkleroad during the JP Morgan Chase Open Tuesday, July 20, 2004, at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif
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