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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Williams looks back from the summit
In an exclusive interview, the Wimbledon champion and new world No 1 reflects on her predecessors at the pinnacle of the game
By John Roberts in Dubai
25 February 2002
Venus Williams may be the world No 1 today, but enough is enough. It was time to confront her with the injustice of there being two great tennis players in the same house in America, Venus and her younger sister, Serena, when there is not a single female contender to write home about in the whole of Britain. There ought to be a law against it. Two-player families should be banned.

She responded with a hearty laugh, prompting a change of tack in an attempt to dig up evidence of normality in the lives of the multi-millionaire superstar siblings. For example, do they, back home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, have a rota for the household chores or do they play it by ear? ("It's your turn for the dishes, Serena, and I did the vacuum cleaning yesterday...").

Venus shook her head. "No, we don't clean. Using a vacuum cleaner gives me a sore back. We do tidying. We keep our closets clean and all that kind of thing. But as far as dishes, I won't wash a dish. And Serena doesn't vacuum. We have a dishwashing machine, but I don't like those things."

Surely there must be points of contention off the court as well as on it? "Serena never buys groceries," Venus said. "I think I've spoiled her. I'll go to the store and I'll buy them, and I'll make sure the house is stocked with eats and drinks, everything. And I'll look in the fridge and say: 'I just bought three bottles of orange juice, where are they?' And I just bite my lip and buy more."

Serena may find the cupboards bare for the next week or so. Venus would like to "go into a little coma" on returning from the Dubai Duty Free Open to help her recover from "mental exhaustion", tendinitis and muscle strains after an early-season campaign which has enabled her to climb to the summit of the game, adding prestige to her $9.6m (£6.7m) prize-money, plus further millions from endorsements.

Venus Williams is the first African-American player to be ranked No 1 by the computer. Not even Arthur Ashe achieved that. So how old was she when she first thought about becoming No 1? "About six," she said softly, smiling mischievously and recalling her childhood on the park courts of Compton, California.

"When I was young I thought I could beat any player, I really did. I thought I could beat John McEnroe. I thought I was the tops. I thought I was everything. I found out I wasn't, but it was nice. My Mum and Dad said: 'So you think you can beat John McEnroe? Well, maybe you can do it'."

Asked to discuss the nine world No 1s who have preceded her since the computer rankings were introduced to the women's game in 1975 (five years before Williams was born), she said her knowledge of some was sketchy, starting with Chris Evert, the cool blonde from Florida who won 18 Grand Slam singles titles and spawned a generation of American baseliners.

"I only remember her last major match in her career [a loss to Zina Garrison in the quarter-finals of the 1989 US Open]. I was nine. That's when I first remember tennis. Really all I know about her is pretty much what I've heard, because I've never seen her play except in television clips."

Martina Navratilova, the nine-times Wimbledon champion, presents a sharper image. "She revolutionised the game, for sure, made people work harder. She was the forerunner of power tennis."

Navratilova said in her day people used to remark about her fitness, power and athleticism, but the 6ft 1in Williams has taken the game to a new level. "It is definitely a different game," Williams agreed. "I think it would be a shame if tennis had regrets, but just like everything else in this world, technology and all that kind of thing, everything's moving forward. So that's what's going to happen. After me there will be better girls, and I'll just sit back and watch it."

Tracy Austin, a teenage wonder with bunches in her hair and braces on her teeth, won the US Open singles title in 1979 and 1981. "I only know what I've heard about her," Williams said. "I've never really seen her play, except for one match on Classic Sports on television. Tennis has changed a lot since then. At that time she was the cream of the crop."

There is no doubt in Williams' mind about Steffi Graf, who in 1988 won a "golden Grand Slam" of the four major championships plus the Olympic Games singles title in Seoul. "She was really a great champion. Twenty-two Grand Slams. I've got four," she said in a mock whimper. "I was hoping to get a few more. I'm not sure if I'll ever get that achievement, but I've done well for myself. More than anything, I think Steffi really had the mental game down pat."

Williams also admires Monica Seles, the winner of nine Grand Slam singles titles, whose career was all but wrecked by a stabbing in the back by a deranged spectator. Seles remains a rival at the age of 28. "I really think she was one of the only ones to challenge Steffi Graf, because Steffi Graf was dominating the game and Navratilova and Evert and all the other players couldn't touch her. But Monica came along and offered the first challenge. So she did a lot for the game."

Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, the Barcelona retriever, a winner of four Grand Slam singles titles and twice a runner-up at Wimbledon, "made the best of her game and her abilities, and she gave it her all. When she gets to the end of her career she will know that she did everything that she could do."

Martina Hingis, unlike the Williams sisters, came through the junior ranks – she was 12 when she won the girls' title at French Open – and became the youngest player to win a Grand Slam singles championship (16 years, three months, 26 days at the 1997 Australian Open) since the 15-year-old Lottie Dod at Wimbledon in 1887. Hingis last won a Grand Slam singles title, her fifth, at the 1999 Australian Open. In spite of her clever game, she has struggled to overcome the bigger hitters.

"When Martina came on the scene people had a tough time figuring out her game, and that gave her a lot of success," Williams said. "More than anything, you can see that she loves winning, she hates losing, and that contributed a lot to her success. I think she came in at a great time. Steffi was injured, and the top player at that point was maybe Arantxa. Lindsay [Davenport] was still developing. I was in high school. But I think when Martina capitalised on her game that was a great time."

Lindsay Davenport, tall and powerful, worked hard to trim her figure and improve her mobility. She has been rewarded with three Grand Slam singles titles: the United States Open, Wimbledon and the Australian Open. "The thing about Lindsay is that she's always hit the ball, win, lose or draw. That's really the sign of a champion, someone who's going to go for it all the way. Eventually it paid off."

Jennifer Capriati, the troubled teenager who redeemed herself in her mid-twenties by winning the Australian Open and French Open singles titles last year, successfully defended the Australian championship last month, defeating Hingis in the final for the second consecutive time.

"Jennifer came back and made it happen at one of the most competitive points in women's tennis history," Williams said. "So that's no fluke at all. She's probably making a lot more of her decisions and doing things that make her comfortable."

Before the advent of computer rankings, generations of women players were acknowledged to be the best of their time. Among these was Althea Gibson, an African-American who learned the game on the public courts of Harlem, New York, and had to overcome racial prejudice before she could make her mark in the major championships.

The athletic Gibson was aged 28 when her breakthrough came at the French Championships in 1956. She went on to win singles titles at Wimbledon and the US Championships in both 1957 and 1958. Williams, who has talked with Gibson, is aware of the debt today's multi-milllionaires owe the pioneers, not least Billie Jean King, winner of a record 20 Wimbledon titles between 1961 and 1979 (six singles, 10 women's doubles and four mixed doubles), and a driving force in the campaign for equal prize-money.

"Tennis has a great history," Williams said. "I actually read Billie Jean's book [You've Come a Long Way, Baby]. I liked it a lot. I stayed up late reading it to finish it."

King's influence now extends to the United States Fed Cup and Olympic teams. "She's a great captain," said Williams. "I've never seen anyone who loves the game as much as Billie Jean King. I couldn't come close."

Williams' next major goal is to add the French Open to her roll of honour. "I've just had bad luck there," she said, "and I've made bad decisions. In '97 I just didn't know how to win. In '98 I tried to hit the ball too hard, because the previous time I played on clay I hit it too soft. In '99 I got over-confident. I had three match points. In 2000 I was just coming back from injury. My mind was there, but I just couldn't get my game to do what I wanted. I could visualise it, but I just couldn't do it."

Last year she lost in the first round to Barbara Schett, of Austria, 6-4, 6-4. "I had one bad day – finished. I couldn't hit a ball in that day. Grass, or hard court, or indoors, I wouldn't have won that day. I've just got to get myself together."

Like at Wimbledon. "Wimbledon's my first love. You could end your career after you win Wimbledon. A good result, semi-finals, is just not enough once you've won. I'm hoping to garner it for the next 10 or 15 years, just hold on to it, if I could," she said, hugging herself as if the Venus Rosewater Dish was right there in the clutches of Venus Ebone Starr Williams.

2,282 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I Do Declare

Davide was w/Venus all the way. I'll say!

February 25, 2002

Lisa Dillman:
On Tennis
Minority of One
Her ascent to No. 1 finally realized, Venus Williams definitely followed her own path.

Computer wisdom finally caught up with conventional wisdom in women's tennis today.

This is why the news that Venus Williams officially became No. 1 isn't more of a blockbuster announcement. If you walked into any sports bar last week--managing to pull fans away from curling and hockey--and quizzed people about the top-ranked player in the world, undoubtedly, the answer would have been Williams, not Jennifer Capriati.

Surely, hadn't Williams been No. 1 already after winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open the last two years? And, if not, why had it taken so long? The computer is the partial culprit, much-maligned and all, but of course, not as much as Olympic figure skating judges or the bowl championship series. It artificially propped up Martina Hingis, who benefited by playing more and winning smaller, less prestigious events. Even Lindsay Davenport seemed slightly embarrassed by finishing last year ranked No. 1, admitting Williams was the true top player.

Williams, too, had something to do with the strangeness. She played a limited schedule last year, and no events after the U.S. Open because of the terrorist attacks and an injured wrist.

Just as quixotically, she took a different approach in 2002. Having been criticized for playing too little, she flipped that notion and has been in five tournaments the first eight weeks of the year.

Williams left her Florida home on Dec. 27 for Australia and has been on the road since, starting at Gold Coast, Queensland, winding through Paris and Antwerp, Belgium, and finishing in Dubai.

Call it coincidence or providence, but, in a larger sense, the timing couldn't have worked out better. Williams has become the first African-American, male or female, to be ranked No. 1 by their professional tennis association. Arthur Ashe reached No. 2 on the ATP's computer rankings in 1975, and Althea Gibson was ranked No. 1 in 1957 by a world panel, long before the WTA computer rankings started in 1975.

The historic moment arrived near the end of February, Black History Month. It came two days after another African-American player, Alexandra Stevenson--a childhood friend of Williams from their Southern California days--reached the tour final in Memphis, losing to Lisa Raymond. And it dawned only a day after another African-American, James Blake, played in the Memphis final against his Davis Cup teammate, Andy Roddick, also losing.

There were more than thoughts of Ashe and Gibson when Williams spoke about her latest accomplishment on a ragged phone line on Saturday from Dubai. An associate of Gibson's got on the conference call, warmly congratulated Williams, and said that Gibson wanted to personally offer kudos but was unable to do so.

"It would be foolish to forget Althea Gibson," Williams said. "She was the first. And more than anything, I just feel proud to represent America in my sport."

The dream--of winning Grand Slams and reaching No. 1--was not hers at the start. Richard Williams, her father, had the notion first when Venus and her younger sister Serena were growing up in Compton. He boldly predicted Venus would become No. 1. He even said Serena would be better than Venus, which did happen, briefly, when Serena won the U.S. Open in 1999.

"I thought he was telling the truth," Venus said of the No. 1 prediction. "I was just being the daughter of a proud father. And more than anything, I think he knew he put the work in and that we were listening to him, and I think that's why he had that confidence to say that myself and Serena would be Grand Slam champions.

"Right now, we are some of the best players in the game, I guess, in history, and I just think that I give a lot of credit to my dad for that."

Her mother and coach, Oracene, should receive just as much credit. She has been with her daughter since the start of this final determined charge toward No. 1. Increasingly, Williams has taken charge of her career as she has matured. At the Australian Open, she played through the pain of an injured knee, hinting she didn't consult her parents, and fought her way to the quarterfinals though hampered, losing to a resurgent Monica Seles.

Behind the scenes, she found support from her Italian boyfriend, Davide, who was with her in Australia as well as the European stretch and final stop in Dubai. It hasn't been easy. She played three consecutive weeks, the first time she had done so since October 1998.

In the Paris final, Williams defeated local favorite Amelie Mauresmo and took on another local favorite, Justine Henin, a week later in the Antwerp final. Williams has won three titles this year and lost in the semifinals to Sandrine Testud of France on Friday in Dubai.

"I did intend to be on the road," said Williams, who added the Antwerp tournament when she realized how close she was to No. 1. "I gave my full commitment for the first two months of the year. I knew it would be really tough, and mentally I've prepared to not be at home. But I really miss my dog ... and I miss Serena too. I miss the States more than anything. I haven't really had a chance to watch the Olympics, so I missed out on a few things."

Lately, the reigns at No. 1 have been short. Williams is the fourth player in the last five months to reach No. 1. Capriati, Davenport and Hingis are the others. Williams and her sister Serena will not be playing at Indian Wells next week, not surprising after last year's controversy, in which they were booed by the crowd. Venus pulled out of a scheduled semifinal against Serena because of an injury.

"Well, all in all, it was just basically an incredible scene last year in Indian Wells, but that's part of sports, playing with the good and the bad," Venus said.

Whether she is passed by Capriati this week in Scottsdale or by not playing at Indian Wells, Williams doesn't appear overly concerned. She reached No. 1 her special way, and why be any different now?

"I think the best part is that I've enjoyed myself along the way and that I have not limited myself just to playing tennis or made myself believe that that's the only thing in life," she said. "I've always been doing things at the same time and having a career; for me that's the best part."


1,484 Posts
YOU GO VENUS!!!!!!:bounce:

15,274 Posts
Very good interview and nice kind words from Venus Williams she really has become a classy spokesperson for the tennis game. She always speaks highly of all the players and is not arrogant at all when she speaks about other players. Kudos to Venus Williams for being .. a CLASS ACT. she is so graceful and kind toward her peers.

Venus your a sweet kindhearted mature women.:)


25,212 Posts
I rather liked her re-cap of all the former #1's.

2,029 Posts
The first story is one of those articles of how far Venus has come as a player and how much she has matured as a person. At this point, Feb 2002, I can't really see how any critic (professional or novice) could call Venus "arrogant". She's completely grounded now and will definitely rack up more GS titles. She won't catch Graf but if she puts her mind to it and the body holds up, she has a chance to tie Evert and Navratilova. :)

Tee Rexx, I now completely understand your disapproval with the Jamie Foxx-Serena romance. ;)

1,599 Posts

2,282 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
And The Clock Struck Twelve


Tuesday, 26 February, 2002, 14:47 GMT
Rankings recognise Venus rising

Venus Williams can blow her opponents off court
By BBC Sport Online's James Standley
So the WTA rankings finally confirm what everyone has known for a while: Venus Williams is the finest female tennis player in the world.

Tall, powerful, intelligent and stunningly athletic, Williams' all-court game has long threatened to redefine women's tennis.

Williams is the first black woman to claim the number one spot since the rankings were introduced in 1975.

Along with Althea Gibson, who Williams name-checked on being awarded the number one accolade, Arthur Ashe was the first black tennis player to break through.

Number ones since 75
Steffi Graf 378 weeks
Martina Navratilova 331
Chris Evert 262
Martina Hingis 209
Monica Seles 178
Lindsay Davenport 37
Tracy Austin 22
Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 11
Jennifer Capriati 9
Venus Williams 1 (and counting)
Ashe - an individual respected far beyond the confines of the tramlines - wrote in his book A Hard Road to Glory: "In every sport we (African-Americans) enter in large numbers, we change how it's played and coached."

Watching Williams jump on a half-court ball and dispatch it with immense power and unerring precision, it is hard not to agree.

Ever since a generation ago, when Martina Navratilova revolutionised women's tennis with her own brand of speed and power, the game has been changing.

The traditional virtues of placement and subtlety, embodied by the likes of Martina Hingis and Justine Henin in the modern game, still have their place.

But increasingly they are not enough against the very best.

Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati, along with Hingis the two women who held the number one ranking before Williams, both have power in abundance.

Williams beat sister Serena to win the 2001 USA Open

But increasingly Williams looks to be taking the game into a different realm.

Four Grand Slam titles in the last two years, plus double gold at the 2000 Olympics, suggest Williams has been the dominant player over the last couple of seasons.

So why has it taken her so long to ascend to the number one spot?

The reason is simple - she has played so little tennis compared to her rivals.

Williams competed in just 12 events in 2001, winning six, but compatriot and former world number one Lindsay Davenport played in 17 - and that despite missing two-and-a-half months with a knee injury.

Williams' frequent absence from the court enabled Martina Hingis to rack up 209 weeks at the top of the tree, even though she was invariably overpowered by the American whenever the two met.

The past two months I have been able to play without pain and that's done a lot for me

World number one

Venus Williams

But whereas Hingis, who has not won a Grand Slam since the 1999 Australian Open, is the ultimate tennis junkie, traipsing round the world in search of points, Williams has been content to play as and when she feels like it.

Many in the game have questioned her dedication to the sport, and she has spoken of her desire to quit the game entirely once she stops playing.

But she claims that she has not played more because her body has not been up to it.

"Physically has been one of my problems in the past," she said on assuming the No.1 position.

"The past two months I have been able to play without pain and that's done a lot for me."

If the willowy Williams is now physically strong enough to play more regularly, and shows the desire to do so, then Venus can eclipse her rivals for many years to come.
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