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Sisters sink teeth into Cup
By Bud Collins, Globe Columnist
April 25 2003
The Boston Globe

LOWELL -- Do I sense a rift between the Sisters? Can all that togetherness be coming apart, strained by their civil war for top-bananaship in a year-round, round-the-world amusement called tennis?

''Serena won't give me any toothpaste,'' Venus says. Venus took careful care of Serena when they were little girls, bought her ice cream and lunch, helped her cross streets. Isn't she entitled?

But now that the younger Ms. Williams has replaced the older Ms. Williams as No. 1, Venus's cry isn't ''Where's the beef?'' No. It's ''Where's the toothpaste?''

Is this a duel over dentifrice that might drive them apart? It has been suggested that Big Sister is depressed over her inability to defeat Little Sister in the finals of the last four major championships.

''Do I look depressed?'' smiles No. 2, her face wreathed in another new look -- bangs.

No, she doesn't appear gloomy, but there's the toothpaste issue.

You see, Serena recently signed a $500,000 deal to endorse a paste called Close-Up. Tubes were handed out last month at Key Biscayne, where Serena won the title, beating Jennifer Capriati in the final. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that Serena gave me two large tubes. Free. Does that compromise me? I hope not. Is it superior to baking soda? Sorry, I'm not a dentist. But baking soda probably doesn't pay 500 grand.

''I didn't get any,'' Venus says.

''You didn't?'' Serena laughs.

Billie Jean King, captain of the US Federation Cup team, the Sisters' minder for the weekend, giggles, wondering if sibling rivalry can be brushed away by a hurried transference of a case of toothpaste from Serena to Venus.

''Well . . .'' Serena offers an enigmatic Mona Lisa smile. But she doesn't say the paste is in the mail.

She does say that she's ''gone back to work, harder than ever.'' After beating Capriati, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, to win the Nasdaq 100 on the Key, she startlingly stated that she had practiced little and avoided the gym a lot. ''I heard about it from my mother [Oracene Williams, their co-coach with Papa Richard Williams].''

So the Sisters are in Lowell, another new town in their on-the-road existence, about to face the Czech Republic tomorrow and Sunday on behalf of the United States, a best-of-five series in the world team tournament called the Federation Cup. It should be ova, ovahere, briskly, since the tourists (Daja Bedanova, Iveta Benesova, Klara Koukalova, Eva Birnerova) are substantially ova-matched.

Still, it all fits since this is the hometown of author Jack Kerouac, whose 1957 novel, ''On the Road,'' launched his reputation as a spokesman for the Beat Generation. While Venus and Serena travel at a higher level than Kerouac's bumming across America, they surely are godmothers at beating up their generation, a trek that continues at Tsongas Arena, honoring another native son, a truly great American, the late Senator Paul Tsongas.

Although Lowell, an ex-textile capital, is hardly a tennis hive, the Williamses' presence means sell-out. It was here that the town's namesake, Francis Cabot Lowell, designed the power loom circa 1812. The looming power of Venus and Serena is to fill 5,741 seats.

Venus says, ''It's wonderful to represent our country. But not many people know about this Cup. I try to explain that it's the women's version of the Davis Cup, but Serena and I would like to call attention to it.'' They will, wherever they go as team members, roles they haven't played since the 1999 Cup seizure. But they weren't 1-2 then. ''It takes four wins to take the Cup, and we'd like to do it.''

That's a sweet quote to Capt. King's ears. Billie Jean was an original (along with Carole Caldwell Graebner and Darlene Hard) just 40 years ago in beating Australia, the Cup's unveiling. A few years ago, the ITF (International Tennis Federation that mindlessly baptized the Cup for itself) had the bright idea to change the name. About time. But what happened was a brilliant amputation of seven letters -- to Fed Cup, easily confused with Fed Up or FedEx. Can you believe they paid a consulting firm for such outstanding lack of imagination?

Clearly, the Cup should have personality and panache, bearing the name of a grand figure. Obviously, the only name that works is the King Cup (better still, the Billie Jean Cup). Who has done as much for tennis -- or women's sport? Alan Schwartz, new US Tennis Association president, should load his lobbying guns immediately to get this done.

Meanwhile, be confident that Billie Jean, impersonating the Tooth Fairy, will see to it that Venus gets some of Serena's toothpaste under her pillow. Throw in floss and an electric toothbrush, please, captain.

But don't read too much into this tempest in a tube. The Sisters remain as close as adjoining molars.
 

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tennisIlove09 said:
Clearly, the Cup should have personality and panache, bearing the name of a grand figure. Obviously, the only name that works is the King Cup (better still, the Billie Jean Cup). Who has done as much for tennis -- or women's sport? Alan Schwartz, new US Tennis Association president, should load his lobbying guns immediately to get this done.
Exactly! Nice to see someone appreciates me and it's nice to know bribery still works.
 
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