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The Show Goes On, at and Away From the Open

By Rachel Nichols
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 28, 2003; Page D01


FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y., Aug. 27 -- Venus and Serena Williams have become the ghosts of this U.S. Open, full-on phantoms in designer shoes. Everywhere the other players look, the sisters are hovering -- on the couches of the television talk shows, in the suites of Manhattan's hotels, in the shops of Madison Avenue.


The one place the Williamses haven't seemed to visit is the National Tennis Center, although even here, there are wisps of them in the plaintive sighs heard in the stands.

It's not as if the rest of the draw hasn't tried to make the crowd happy. Top-seeded Kim Clijsters and No. 3 seed Lindsay Davenport thumped their way through straight-set wins today, and James Blake even sent a thrill through Arthur Ashe Stadium tonight with a spirited 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-2 win over Mariano Zabaleta.

Still, try as they might, no one else has been able to provide the flash of Serena and Venus, who themselves started the day on the network morning shows. They moved on to a chat session with a group of print reporters and even met some corporate sponsorship obligations. Along the way, they held forth on everything from their sport to their injuries to their high heels -- Serena snapped up 13 pairs at Bergdorf Goodman and Manolo Blahnik alone on Tuesday -- and while both were careful to praise those playing in the Open this week, they also admitted that things were, well, a tad boring without them.

"Without us, it is a little dry," Serena Williams told reporters, adding that she hasn't paid particularly close attention to tennis since undergoing knee surgery three weeks ago. By later in the day, she was being even more expansive, saying in a television interview, "there definitely is a big void out there. There are still exciting players out there to see, but I think people are going to miss us shaking things up a bit."

Certainly, there has been no signature match at the tournament thus far, nor any real controversy. Top men's seed Andre Agassi is always a fan favorite, but he has become almost eerily methodical in his early-round matches, providing little tension.

Clijsters, meantime, has yet to truly capture the public's affection. It hasn't helped that she reached No. 1 without having won a major; in fact, she has notoriously choked in her toughest matches. Clijsters also is fighting the perception she only has the top ranking because Serena Williams is injured, and while this is not technically true, it haunts her just the same.

"I've been asked about them," she said today of the Williamses, giving her head a little shake. It has been the same for everyone -- even Jennifer Capriati has acknowledged, "whoever's going to take this title, there's going to be an asterisk next to it, saying 'Oh, but the Williams sisters weren't here.' "

It is easy to see why; no Grand Slam tournament has gone without at least one Williams since the 1997 Australian Open, and the sisters have met in the final of five of the past six majors. And while analysts and fellow players alike have endlessly debated whether their domination has been "good" or "bad" for tennis, as Serena noted today "we're always on the covers of all kinds of newspapers, magazines, everything."

That hasn't changed this week, even though the fuzz of a tennis ball has yet to so much as graze either sister's skin. Serena has not just been shopping but interviewing with movie directors and producers in an attempt to boost her fledgling acting career. She has already shot one movie and is heading to another shoot next week.

Venus has been pumping her interior design business and contemplating visits to museums. Of the pair, she seemed more dejected about missing the final Grand Slam of the year, but the abdominal tear she suffered in May and reinjured in July still aches, and after missing a spate of tournaments since Wimbledon, she finally pulled out of the Open last weekend.

"I was coming in last night and I was passing by the stadium and the big screen. I was thinking, 'I want to be out there. I want to play the night match. Sign me up,' " she told this morning's gathering of reporters. Then she laughed, joking, "I was hoping they'd move the Open back a few weeks so that way maybe I could be ready. Nobody liked that idea."

She will instead try to come back for the WTA Tour's year-end championships in November; if not, she will resurface at the Australian Open in January. Either way, she stressed, she has no intention of leaving the game anytime soon.

"I'm not going away, I like what I do," she said. "I'm not retiring before 33.

"I've thought about it already. I'm not giving up my great job. I like it. I'm fortunate. I'm blessed and I love being out there."

Serena Williams too insisted she will stay in tennis for at least another decade, that she likes her "day job." Still, she allowed that "in a way it is kind of a relief to see how this actually gives me a chance to do some other stuff.

"When I first found out I wasn't going to play, I thought, 'Wow, that's going to be crazy.' I was actually pretty sad, or maybe I just wanted to feel sorry for myself. Then after about five minutes I quickly got over it."

She may be the only one.
 

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Yeah she is the only one. I was so mad when I heard she pulled out :mad: Aw well!

This is what next year will look like:

Serena Williams winner of:

Australian Open 2004
Roland Garros 2004
Wimbledon 2004
US Open 2004
 
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alextreiber03 said:
This is what next year will look like:

Serena Williams winner of:

Australian Open 2004
Roland Garros 2004
Wimbledon 2004
US Open 2004
I have a sneaking suspicion that Venus will
have something to say about that! ;)

Their matches are getting better and better,
I can't wait until both are completely healthy
and we see them duking it out in GS finals again.

Also, they have Olympic Titles to defend!

Go V&S!!!
 
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squawk box said:
:rolleyes:Serena Quote: "Without us,it is a little dry"...thats a matter of opinion.I hope there is a support group out there for the modest impaired
What?!?
She's simply telling the truth. :p
 

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Would it appear more mature for Serena to be immodest?

Spare me the faux humility. I'd prefer honesty any day. As you said, it's only her opinion.
 

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I think it's a tip-top event!!! Don't worry, I don't miss them at all and I could be somewhat lazily classified as a hater (although "depreciator" is a more accurate appellation in this case).
 

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What a great article!!
Wouldn't it be cool if either Venus or Serena could achieve the GOLDEN SLAM next year?!!? I hope it happens!!! :bounce:
 

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Yes the U.S.Open is very boring with out the sisters I'm not watching it that much I just watch the sport high lights, the sisters does bring something different to a grand slam or just even the other touraments they entre........but I'm amaze with the new style of theother girls espcially Jen,Jen who did they watch and learn from how to look desent!! but we all know only the sisters can bring it........but anyway the comentors even said the Open is not the same with out the SISTERS!!
 
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