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Discussion Starter #1
Last Updated: Monday, 9 June, 2003, 20:50 GMT 21:50 UK

Sisters handed doubles wildcard

The All England Club have given a wildcard to Venus and Serena Williams to play in the doubles at Wimbledon.
The sisters do not play enough doubles throughout the year to qualify direct but as reigning champions have been handed the wildcard.

Britain's Richard Bloomfield and Jamie Delgado won their places in the main draw for the men's singles via the new Wimbledon wildcard play-off event.

Compatriots Arvind Parmar and Mark Hilton will join them.

Bogdanovic's Wimbledon blow

America's Corina Morariu, who has battled back from cancer, has been offered the chance to play in the women's singles.

15,624 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
Leaving Paris behind, time to get stained at Wimbledon
S. Williams, Agassi looking to right French Open wrongs on the grass
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PARIS - The clay-court season is over, which means it's time for grass stains, British tabloids, Tim Henman, Lleyton Hewitt and hard-hitting Americans. Time to forget about Spanish players, many of whom skip Wimbledon and take a vacation, though French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero hopes to make a breakthrough on the green stuff this year.

As the focus of the tennis world shifts from France to England, new story lines emerge.

Now that Justine Henin-Hardenne has beaten Serena Williams twice in a row, does she have the game and mental strength to compete for the No. 1 spot? The Belgian admits her best chance of beating the world No. 1 is on clay, where power isn't as big a factor. The scales might shift back to Williams on grass and hardcourts.

Speaking of Williams, how will she bounce back from her tearful semifinal exit at Roland Garros? The loss to Henin-Hardenne doesn't take away the fact she has lost only one match at a major event in the past 21 months. Her last words before departing the French Open: ``I'm ready to play anyone at any time, anywhere.''

Williams' sister, Venus, meanwhile, went home in search of the heart that made her a champion not so long ago. An abdominal strain might have played a role in her early dismissal from the French Open, but listless play and an apparent lack of desire seem to be more pressing problems. Which Venus will show up in England? The one who used to be feared or the one who was humiliated by an 18-year-old Russian?

The French Open introduced fans to new faces, and now the question is: Will we ever see them again in the late rounds of a major? Was amiable Dutchman Martin Verkerk a one-tournament wonder, or can he and his booming serve become a force on grass, on which he has never played?

What will become of Mario Ancic, Ashley Harkleroad, Tommy Robredo, Vera Zvonareva and Nadia Petrova, all young players who made a mark on red clay?

As for the veterans, can Henman, one of the game's few serve-and-volleyers, win his first Grand Slam after reaching the semis at Wimbledon four of the past five years? Could Andre Agassi win again, after 11 years? He is playing the Queens Club tuneup, a sign he is taking the grass season seriously.

''It's a challenging time of year for me, on the clay,'' Agassi said after being ousted from the French by Guillermo Coria. ``And in a strange way, I sort of look forward to the torment of trying to figure it all out and also look forward to when it's over. Once the disappointment settles in a little bit, I'll be able to look forward to picking up my game where I left it off [the] last time I was on a tennis court, with lower bounces.''

Asked what he hoped for from Wimbledon, he smiled and replied: ``To play Coria.''

Two big-time players will try to improve their game with new coaches. Andy Roddick of Boca Raton joined forces with former Agassi coach Brad Gilbert. And Hewitt, who hasn't had his usual fire of late, is working under Roger Rasheed after the departure of coach Jason Stoltenberg.

Roger Federer will try to prove he has more than talent. Michael Chang will collect more souvenirs on his farewell tour. And waif-like Daniela Hantuchova will no doubt be the subject of many a tabloid photo, as the British press debates whether she has an eating disorder.

Strawberries and cream, anyone?

15,624 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Serena and Venus: A Class Act of Sisters

© Harry Collins

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

It is fair to say that not even Wimbledon has ever witnessed anything like the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. Between them they have won the Ladies Singles Championship for the past three years (not to mention the doubles crown twice) and have monopolised the Grand Slam circuit for the past 12 months until the recent French Open brought an end to that domination.

Going into the French Open, Serena had defeated Venus in each of the Grand Slam finals since Roland Garros 2002. No two women had previously achieved that, never mind a couple of sisters. If you add to that potent mix the sight of their father and coach, Richard, cavorting at courtside, the whole set-up is indisputably unique.

Venus, who will celebrate her 23rd birthday just before this year’s Championships, was until last year more successful than the 21-year-old Serena. When they met in the final of the 2001 US Open, Venus won the title for the second straight year. That match, three days before the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre, marked the first time sisters had met in the final of a Grand Slam event since Maud and Lilian Watson, daughters of a Midlands clergyman, contested the first Ladies’ Singles final at Wimbledon back in 1884.

However, as Serena has grown stronger and become quicker and more experienced, she has come to dominate the sisterly rivalry. Venus had emerged on top in five of the first seven matches they contested on the professional circuit but the counter-attack got under way at the Miami tournament, close to their Florida home, in the spring of last year when Serena triumphed in the semi-finals.

Then came that devastating sequence of four wins in four Grand Slam finals, as stupendous as it was historic, which left Serena sitting on top of the rankings and Venus surprised but not, she insists, downhearted.

Serena, too, readily confesses surprise at what she had managed to pull off. “As confident as I always am, I never thought I would actually end up holding all four titles,” she said. “But I just set my goals to the sky and if I land on the moon, that’s OK.”

Having reached for the sky and touched it, Serena was not slow to place credit where she considered it belonged. “Most of my fight and courage and my ideas I get from Venus,” she said.

In turn, Venus put her finger on what has made Serena the senior sister in Grand Slam terms: “Serena is mentally tougher. That’s the main thing that has dropped off in me.”

It is true that other things have contributed to what is only a comparative decline in Venus. She is tall and long-limbed and therefore prone to stress and injuries on joints like wrists and knees. Then, as an intelligent and ambitious woman, she is heavily into the study of interior design.

What is certain is that luck has not been a contributory factor in the rise and rise of the Williams girls. Serena scoffs when the word is mentioned. “Luck has nothing to do with it. I spent many hours, countless hours, on the court working for these moments.”

It all started on the decrepit public courts of a Los Angeles ghetto as their father carefully prepared them for fame, largely bypassing junior competition in readiness for an assault on the pro circuit when the time came.

And how spectacularly that time has come. But it has not been without price. In addition to Venus’ assorted injuries, Serena concedes, “Sometimes I feel like an old woman in a young woman’s body.”

Neither of them can see all this going on for too much longer, which is probably a relief to the rest of the women’s circuit. “I don’t have long-term goals,” said Serena recently. “I don’t want to play tennis for 15 years.

“Anyway, it’s impossible for anyone to have a long career nowadays. The matches are longer, conditions are harder, it’s just a different time.”

But the Williamses are intent on leaving their imprint on the sport. “We want to be legends,” said Venus, “and go into the Hall of Fame.”

Written by Ronald Atkin

15,624 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Serena Eager To Kick Grass At Wimbledon

Photo By Susan Mullane By Richard Pagliaro

Tasting Grand Slam defeat for the first time in a more than a year after sliding out of the semifinals on the red clay of Roland Garros has left Serena Williams ready to kick grass at Wimbledon.

The top-ranked Williams took time out from reading scripts to chat with the media on a conference call today. While she's declined a role in the upcoming Wimbledon film which stars Spiderman's Kirsten Dunst, the woman who has emerged as an entertainment triple threat through her acting, modeling and tennis-playing prowess, suggests she's already set her sights on her next role: staging a successful sequel to her 2002 Wimbledon title triumph.

A week ago, the star of so many Grand Slam shows held a 4-2, 30-0 lead in the decisive set only to become unnerved by a jeering crowd at Phillipe Chatrier Court. Upstaged by the feisty fourth-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne, Williams dropped five of the final six games in suffering a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 setback that snapped her 33-match Grand Slam winning streak.

Today, the five-time Grand Slam champion said she's wiped away the memories of that moment and is looking forward to regaining her winning ways at Wimbledon.

"What happened at the French (Open) happened a week ago," Williams said. "It's all water on the bridge and I've moved on. If it does anything it just makes me a stronger individual. I actually look forward to playing these players again."

The hot, hard court of her home court in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida has been Williams' training grounding as she prepares for the lawns of the All England Club.

"I'm working the way I do every year before Wimbledon," Williams said. "It's so hot here in Florida I think I'm getting ready for the Australian Open. But I've just been working out doing a lot of conditioning, as well as practicing, and a lot of off court projects — that's the best part."

Dismissing the notion that playing a grass-court tune-up tournament is a prerequisite for Wimbledon success, Williams said she's more comfortable training at home. The owner of an 18-3 career record at Wimbledon, Williams said she believes Wimbledon warm-up tournaments aren't particularly helpful to her since she believes the grass at those events presents a much different bounce from the All England Club's lawns.

"I don't like to be in Europe for eight weeks in a row," said Williams of her decision to return home after Roland Garros. "I've been successful at Wimbledon not playing the warm up tournaments. The warm up tournaments are not anything like the courts at Wimbledon so I'd rather not play one."

While the long rallies on the slow, red clay courts of Roland Garros can challenge the legs and lungs, Williams said winning Wimbledon can be a pain in the butt that requires rapid reactions

"On clay you're working your abductors and legs and on grass you're working a lot of your glutes," Williams said. "It's definitely working different parts of your body physically. You have to be able to react much quicker than you do on the clay. On the clay, you can be a little lazy and lackadaisical and you take a break, however on the grass you have to be on your toes at all times. And that's the main difference and that's what I work on in practice."

As her dog barked in the background, Williams — who participated in the conference call to promote her first appearance in the Advanta Championships, scheduled for October 27th-November 2nd — said she's looking forward to playing in Philadelphia for the first time. The Advanta Championships return to the Philadelphia area for the first time since November 2000. The tournament, which hosts the top women's tennis players from the WTA Tour, will be played at the
Villanova University Pavilion. Past champions include Lindsay Davenport, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and Martina Hingis.

"I've always wanted to play there (in Philadelphia)," Williams said. "It's a great city. I really like Philadelphia. I'm going to be very excited to go to Philadelphia and play there for the first time."

The multi-talented No. 1 is actively advancing her acting and modeling careers — she has appeared in television roles and in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition — and said those professional pursuits can help prolong her tennis career.

"I think it's definitely important to do different things," Williams said. "That way you don't burn yourself out at a young age. I've been playing tennis since I was four years old or maybe even younger so its important for me to do different things — that way I won't become tired...Actually, I've just gotten three scripts today I'm looking at. I'm really excited about them. I have to read them. The opportunities are great. I keep getting scripts, I've turned a lot of things down. There's a lot of roles I won't do."

One role she seems especially eager to avoid is that of upset victim in a Grand Slam. The woman who can turn the tennis court into a stage for her action-hero performances said she has no interest in being typecast solely as a tennis player.

"The Wimbledon movie that they're filming with Kirsten Dunst right after Wimbledon, I just don't want to do that type of movie," Williams said. "And there's a lot of other roles, like I don't want to do a role where I'm laid out on the ground. I'm a good actress and I have a lot of skill and I would like to challenge myself. If I'm playing a part in a tennis movie it's not going to challenge me at all."

With the exception of her semifinal victory over Kim Clijsters at the Australian Open and her semifinal setback at Roland Garros, Williams rarely looked challenged in seizing four consecutive Grand Slam championships. Former No. 1 Martina Hingis recently suggested that Williams' toughest opponent is herself and said maintaining motivation to continue her dominance of the WTA Tour may be Williams' toughest challenge. Today, the aspiring actress spoke like a woman completely comfortable in her role as world No. 1 and said she has no intention of stepping out of the part in the near future.

"I can't even see the finish line at all, it's so far ahead of me," Williams said. "I'm not to the point where I can see that. Hopefully, I can keep it that way for another seven, eight years. As long as I'm healthy and as long as I'm enjoying it (I'll keep playing)."

15,624 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Venus to skip doubles
By Chris Jones, Evening Standard
16 June 2003
Former champion Venus Williams could struggle to make an impact at this year's Wimbledon because of a chest-muscle injury, writes Chris Jones.
Younger sister Serena, the defending champion, has revealed that the problem that ruined Venus's bid for glory at the French Open earlier this month means they cannot team up and defend their Wimbledon doubles title.
She said: "I don't think Venus should have played at Roland Garros. I will miss the doubles very much but it's not fair to put stress on her injury.
"I am sure I will get chill-bumps walking back into Wimbledon and not holding on to the French title was a disappointment but it only took me 20 minutes to get over that hurt.
"I am tough on myself when I lose and I am extremely determined coming into Wimbledon

15,624 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Wimbledon-Serena and Venus vie to reign again
2003-06-18 01:04:00 GMT (Reuters)

By Philippa Moreton

LONDON, June 18 (Reuters) - Serena and Venus Williams have ruled the roost at Wimbledon over the last three years and completely dominated the grand slam circuit in the 12 months preceding this year's French Open.

But Justine Henin-Hardenne's victory over Serena in the semi-finals at Roland Garros two weeks ago brought an end to the world number one's string of four consecutive grand slam titles -- all of which involved beating Venus in the finals.

Henin-Hardenne's win over Kim Clijsters in the Paris final also forced Venus Williams, winner of four grand slam titles, out of the top three for the first time in 18 months as the Belgian moved up to third in the rankings.

What happens at next week's Wimbledon could determine whether the American sisters' reign really has begun its demise or whether what happened at Roland Garros was nothing but a brief aberration.

Serena will be fired up to retain her Wimbledon crown and reassert her authority over the pretenders and would undoubtedly relish a return grudge match with Henin-Hardenne whom she could meet in the semi-finals.

The 21-year-old Serena was distraught after her 6-2 4-6 7-5 Roland Garros defeat, which was fought out in front of a tough partisan crowd who booed her throughout.

Serena had looked to have the match in her grasp at 4-2 and 30-0 in the third set when the umpire refused her the right to replay her first serve after the Belgian had raised her arm.

Serena was angry that Henin-Hardenne declined to intervene and the tearful American later added to the controversy by accusing her opponent of "lying and fabricating".


The highly-competitive Serena is not one to let the events in Paris affect her future performances, however.

"It was a fight, that's all," she said after the defeat. "I am going to have to learn how to win. Got to keep smiling...I think if you keep smiling things work out."

Speaking about the match on returning to the United States, she said: "In a way there are things that you never forget. But there are things that you should forget.

"But it is hard, of course it is. I just try to think positive and tell myself I have got to get over that," she was quoted as saying.

The much more restrained crowds at Wimbledon will certainly help her recovery.

Elder sister Venus is looking further and further removed from the former world number one who two years ago won both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open for the second time.

Until last year the 23-year-old Venus was by far the more successful of the sisters.

Venus was the first of the two to win the grasscourt grand slam, beating Lindsay Davenport in 2000 before repeating the feat the following year by overcoming Henin in three sets, but her confidence appears to have crumbled while her younger sister's has soared.


Her failure to progress beyond the fourth round of Roland Garros, knocked out by Russian teenager Vera Zvonareva, left her looking utterly dejected but she rejected the idea that her career was on the wane.

She had been hampered by a stomach injury in the weeks preceding the French Open and, by her own admission, had not done enough preparation.

"I've won majors before, I've won tournaments before, I've come from down in matches before," she said. "I have the experience to be successful. Now I just have to go on and do it."

If the elder Williams is to challenge once more for a grand slam title, she may have to spend more time on the game rather than on her other interest, interior design.

She has started her own company and often works at its Palm Beach Gardens headquarters.

But her early exit in Paris appears to have re-ignited her competitive spirit.

"I would love to win a major and I would love to finish number one," said Venus, who is in the opposite half of the draw to Serena.
"I suppose I'll just have to play more tournaments, play more matches. I think that will help me also to definitely get into the groove of things."

15,624 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
Serena's sitting in strong half of draw
By Pam Shriver
Special to

The Wimbledon draw is top heavy with Serena Williams, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Amelie Mauresmo and Jennifer Capriati, making the top a good bit stronger than the bottom half. That side also has some players who have been to the semifinals of Wimbledon before, such as Alexandra Stevenson, Jelena Dokic and Conchita Martinez.

Pam's Picks

Former WTA Tour pro Pam Shriver is providing with in-depth analysis throughout Wimbledon. Shriver, a tennis analyst for ESPN, was ranked as high as No. 3 in singles play. She won 21 singles and 112 doubles crowns, including 22 Grand Slam titles.

For two tournaments in a row the Williams sisters have been on opposite halves -- although if Venus keeps playing the way she has been it won't matter anyway. Serena will be relieved to get on a surface more suitable to her game. As well as she's done on clay, it's her least favorite surface whether she'll admit it or not.

Big question as to how Justine Henin-Hardenne will adjust after winning a major. She's struggled before after strong results. It's time for her to realize her place at the top and not back down.

Continuing question marks about Venus: If she struggles on grass, then she's in a real slump. As she showed by winning it two years in a row, she can dominate when she's playing well on this surface. The bottom half of the draw can become a lot stronger if Venus and Lindsay Davenport are playing like past champions and feel they can win.

In the second round Serena could play Els Callens, who gave Serena her toughest match last year at Wimbledon. So in the second round, we should see how well Serena is playing; however I don't see anyone until Capriati in the quarters stopping Serena. It was in that same round two years ago at Wimbledon that Capriati beat Serena for the last time. Capriati would like things to come full circle.

Henin-Hardenne and Mauresmo are favored to play in the quarterfinals, but there are some talented grass-court players in that section: Lisa Raymond, Elena Danilidou -- whose game is perfect for grass -- Dokic and Stevenson.

Probably the most interesting first-round matchup for the women is Ashley Harkleroad against Maria Sharapova. That's a fun young, teen-age battle. USA vs. Russia.

In the bottom half of the draw, Venus will have to be playing well early. She could play Katarina Srebotnik in the second round and if Venus lacks confidence she could lose that one. Venus has a really difficult round of 32 against French Open semifinalist Nadia Petrova. If Petrova continues to play well like she did at the French that will be the best match in that round. If she gets through Petrova, Venus is due to play Vera Zvonareva, who upset her at the French Open. Venus is as vulnerable as any of the top eight seeds. It will be interesting to see if she clicks in on grass -- it might be the best time for her to rebound.

It'll also be interesting to see if Daniela Hantuchova is playing better again. If she's putting on weight and if she's stronger, she should like playing on grass.

Chanda Rubin is seeded eighth and faces Iva Majoli who is a winner of a major (French) although most people seem to forget that. Rubin has become a steady top-eight player who loves playing on grass. She won Eastbourne last year. She likes grass and anyone who's not intimataded by the surface has a huge advantage.

Finally, No. 2 seed Kim Clijsters faces Ai Sugiyama in the round of 16. This matchup with her doubles partner is not an easy one. Sugiyama beat Clijsters in Scotsdale.

Last year, Clijsters was real down after losing at the French, and so we'll see how she responds this year. She sometimes forgets how to control her forehand and as good an athlete as she is, she doesn't come to net the way she should. She'll still likely get through to the quarters.

During the first week of Wimbledon, it will be important to watch who is looking most comfortable moving forward. That's what they need to do to put themselves in a position to win on grass.

Also, at Wimbledon, more than any of the other majors, the weather comes into play. The players' frame of mind -- whether they're able to withstand long delays, scheduling changes, days with back-to-back delays because of rainouts -- can be a real challenge.

15,624 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
June 19 2003
By Mark Staniforth, PA Sport
Williams lifts the trophy last year.

Serena Williams always seemed likely to one day stand unchallenged on the summit of women's tennis.

The only surprise is that it took the 21-year-old Compton native so long to get there.

Just over 12 months ago Serena was preparing to go to Roland Garros for the French Open having failed to capitalise on her previous surprise Grand Slam triumph at the US Open in 1999.

Venus was still stealing the Williams family headlines for her back-to-back Wimbledon triumphs. Serena's self-professed struggles with unpredictability and hypochondria were beginning to severely curtail her chances of dethroning her big sister.

"It's been way too long since I won another major," Serena shrugged. "But I think I have matured mentally because I used to have a lot of problems.

"Don't hold your breath, because it's time to let go."

Fast forward 12 months and the talk is no longer of temper tantrums or tactical toilet breaks.

Serena went into this year's French Open having swept four consecutive Grand Slams, a feat matched in history only by Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf.

Suddenly Serena had found that extra precision to ally to the booming power which had the serve gun working overtime since she swept onto the main tour scene as a brash and precocious talent six years ago.

The result was astounding. Serena beat her sister to conquer Roland Garros and repeated the feat in the first-ever all-sisters Wimbledon final in 108 years, going through the entire championships without dropping a set.

Venus was vanquished again at Flushing Meadow for a third straight Grand Slam title and Serena marched remorselessly into 2003, winning her first 21 matches including adding the Australian Open to complete her consecutive "Slam".

It was a sign of Serena's by now all-encompassing dominance that she made major headlines in Charleston in April when she dropped her first match of the year to Justine Henin-Hardenne, a player who would also beat her remarkable Grand Slam match-winning run in Paris earlier this month.

Her hopes of equalling Graf's 45-game winning streak at the start of 1987 had vanished but Serena rubbished some pundits who had begun to believe she might make it through the entire season undefeated.

"I set my goals for the sky - that doesn't necessarily mean I get them," she said.

"It's okay because it's hard to do that. Sometimes you need to lose. I'm so motivated now I can just feel it coming on again - so you've got to watch out.

"I think you guys dwelled on it (not losing in 2003) more than I did."

Serena was also beaten by Amelie Mauresmo in the Italian Open but typically for a player who has no qualms about alienating herself from the majority of the women's tour she paid her victorious foe little credit.

"When I lose a match it's usually because of how I played," Serena shrugged.

Serena insists she has maintained all of the drive which propelled her off the glass-strewn courts of her old Los Angeles neighbourhood and turned her into the world's best player.

And she has clearly overcome the psychological barrier which once led to too many unforced errors and raised big questions about her temperament.

Matters came to a head in Serena's 2001 Wimbledon quarter-final against Jennifer Capriati when she stood on the brink of victory only to lose nine consecutive games and take a controversial and lengthy toilet break as things started to fall apart.

Williams said afterwards: "There is always someone that is prone to get sick, prone to get hurt and injured, more prone than the next individual.

"That's me. That's Serena Williams. Under hypochondriac, they should put Serena Williams."

Whatever remedy it is that Serena has found, her rivals could all do with some of it. Henin-Hardenne recently stated that she believed many of Serena's opponents felt defeated before they even stepped out onto the court.

The Belgian may have begun to erode that, butt is likely that many will continue to feel that way for many years to come as Serena continues to send old records tumbling.

15,624 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
Power Surge: Is Slam Bam Tennis Threatening Interest In Women's Tennis? FM_VENUS.jpg
Photo By Fred Mullane By Suzi Petkovski

Back in the early 1990s, when tennis had its catgut in a twist about the dominance of big blokes wielding serves of mass destruction and reducing tennis to target practice, crusty troglodytes like John McEnroe started calling for a return to wood racquets to put the brakes on biff-and-bang tennis. Mac (and the rest of us) never imagined it would be the ladies who would go on an extended power trip.

David has toppled Goliath in the men’s game, with speedy, aggressive, average-sized baseliners like Lleyton Hewitt, Juan Carlos Ferrero and lately Guillermo Coria wresting dominance from the big servers and heavier hitters. Martin Verkerk’s stunning French Open run notwithstanding, six men have won the last seven Grand Slams and none of them exceed the 6-foot mark by any great measure. But the women’s game is power tennis at full throttle. Might is right. Amazons rule. Get set for a Big Babe blitz at Wimbledon, where the baseline bruisers are unlikely to be bothered by pesky net rushers.

Serena and Venus Williams, sisters of no mercy, personify what Mary Carillo so aptly coined "Big Babe" tennis. They’ve powered their way to the top, bullying opponents with big serving, lashing away from the baseline and routinely ripping two-handed backhand winners off the back foot. Eight of the last 12 Grand Slam trophies sit in the Williams family cabinet. With an unprecedented four straight faceoffs in Slam finals, the Williams wondergals have achieved a sequence that eluded even Evert and Navratilova.

Paradoxically, the serve is a greater weapon for Venus and Serena, the top two women of 2002, than for Hewitt and Andre Agassi, the top two men. Venus’s 125 mph bomb in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open was faster than Agassi’s fastest delivery in 2002 (124 mph), and equal with Hewitt’s quickest. And Venus cracked 127 mph five years ago. Venus and Serena top the tally for quickest serves among the women. In contrast, Hewitt and Agassi were at No. 67 and No. 80, respectively, on the serve speedometer in 2002, behind “household names” Ladislav Svarc, Armando Carrascosa and Glenn Weiner. (No, we’re not making them up.)

The signature shot of Venus and Serena is the open-stance double-handed backhand — a stroke that requires great upper body strength and rotation. More players are using the shot (or are forced to), but none as effectively as the Williamses. What’s more, with few exceptions, Venus and Serena are tested by nothing but inferior versions of their own power games.

Margaret Court, the original Big Babe, a pioneer of weight-training when it was most unladylike and the greatest Grand Slam champion of all-time, was at the Australian Open to see the Serena Slam and found the overpowering tennis underwhelming.

"It’s a power game from the baseline," says Court, who serve-and-volleyed her way to a fifth French title over Chris Evert in 1973. "There’s very little subtlety or variety. The beauty and grace has gone out of the game. They’re great athletes — I appreciate that — but it’s boring to watch."

The problem with Big Babe tennis is that practically everyone is playing it. "When you take both depth and variety out of the game, you take the excitement out," asserts Court. "You need variety coming through. The harder you hit to Serena and Venus, the more they like it. You need variety to break up that power."

Does Belgian all-courter Justine Henin-Hardenne, the new French Open champion, 2001 Wimbledon runner-up and two-time victor over Serena this year, fit the bill? "An excellent player," replies Court. "She can volley well, but Justine lacks reach and I don’t think she’s powerful enough [to reign as No. 1]."

For all the death notices the serve-and-volley game has received in men’s tennis, uniformity of style is even more pronounced in the women. Of the Top 100 players in 2002, no fewer than 77 are double-handed baseline sluggers. Single-handed backhands, once the norm, are now like rare butterflies. Serve-and-volleyers are like unicorn sightings. Lisa Raymond, 30 in August and the last true serve-and-volleyer, is liable to end up with her likeness in a glass case at a museum, the last of a vanished species.

Prior to Henin-Hardenne, the last single-handed women’s champion at a Grand Slam was Steffi Graf at the French Open five years ago. The last serve-and-volley champion was Jana Novotna at Wimbledon six years ago.

Aesthetics impact on audiences. For all the athleticism, inspiration and record ratings the Williams sisters have bestowed on the game, the biggest crowd at a women’s event was more than a decade ago at the 1992 Virginia Slims Championships, featuring the diverse semifinal line-up of Monica Seles, Gabriela Sabatini, Martina Navratilova and Lori McNeil.

Injury and career longevity is another concern with the power game. The most famous casualty of the trend is Martina Hingis and her silky, cerebral style. At 22, the most gifted player of the last decade was done in by chronic foot and ankle injuries, as much as by the power surge in the women’s game. Lindsay Davenport lost the first half of 2002 recuperating from knee surgery. Anna Kournikova’s battle for a first WTA Tour title hasn’t been helped by a constant battle with injuries. Leo Clijsters said last January that he didn’t expect his daughter Kim to be on tour for more than another two to three years, such is the physical toll of the game today.

Mary Carillo, whose own playing career was curtailed by knee injuries, notes that the increased power in the game today means "Many players don’t even have time for anything but open-stance groundstrokes any more." This means hitting or swivelling off the back foot and rotating the trunk and shoulders to generate pace. The ultra-fast whiplash strokes are far more jarring on the body than the long, smooth strokes and follow-throughs of yesteryear.

Big Babe tennis could also cost the game many talented young girls who lack the Amazonian dimensions of Venus, Serena, Lindsay, Amelie, Kim, Monica et al. The example of Hingis would not inspire hope.

Gavin Hopper, who travelled for 13 years on the pro tour as a trainer and coach to Amanda Coetzer, Monica Seles and Iva Majoli, among others, now runs the Cash-Hopper academy in Queensland, Australia, where he is grooming daughter Jade, 11, for the pro tour. "It’s the first thing people ask about Jade: How big is she going to be?" Hopper reports. "I hope the girls don’t get too big. Jade is small in athletic terms. She won’t be 6 feet 2 or anything. It’s become an issue in juniors, very much so. Yes, we’ll lose talented girls. There’s quite a few 12-year-olds now who are 6 feet or close to it. Everyone is looking for big girls."

Why do Big Baselining Babes rule? As with the demise of serve-and-volley in the men’s game, the disappearance of grass and the takeover of hard and clay courts swung the pendulum in favor of the baseliner. In 1974, three of the four Grand Slam tournaments were played on grass, providing plenty of incentive for the pros to serve-and-volley. By 1988, only Wimbledon kept its turf. "Grass has gone from being the most dominant surface in the majors to a three-week, one-major season," notes Carillo.

The successful examples of baseline champions Chris Evert, Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Guillermo Vilas and others did the rest. In women’s tennis, Graf was the first aggressive baseliner, prepared to cop extravagant errors to land stupendous forehand winners. Seles amped it up by firing with equal power on both sides and stepping boldly into the baseline to take the ball earlier than anyone. Hingis’s all-court flair was a welcome but brief respite; she soon found herself battling the judicious power of Davenport. Jennifer Capriati next powered her way to the top before Venus and Serena took over with explosive athleticism.

While there is agreement on the reasons behind the Big Babe phenomenon, there is less agreement on what, if anything, should be done about it. "I’d rather see the equipment change than mess with the rules," says Martina Navratilova. "Something needs to be done about the racquets. The materials are ridiculous now. The game’s too easy with these racquets." Court also blames the failure to regulate racquet technology for the one-style, one-speed tennis of today, but concedes that that horse has bolted. "They really should have done something about the racquets years ago," says Court. "The controls came too late. The larger racquets have really helped baseliners and returners to power the ball. A smaller racquet head would have been an important change."

Slowing the surfaces and balls could put the brakes on power — all three of Serena’s losses this year came on clay — but could also result in a greater attrition rate. Many male players — Thomas Enqvist, Tommy Haas, Wayne Ferreira among them — have been vocal about the link between slow conditions and the injury toll taken by extended play and balls that grow heavier mid-game with the dampness or bits of clay they soak up on every bounce.

That leaves natural evolution to provide a ‘correction.’ Will the next generation ratchet up the power even more? Or will touch and guile make a comeback and ultimately unseat the Big Babes?

"When those two [Venus and Serena] lose, it’s often because they beat themselves," Carillo observed, foreshadowing their French Open losses. "The goal of their opponents is not necessarily to beat them, but to be around when Serena or Venus beat themselves. It takes great physical fitness, stamina and positivity to hang in there against them, but surely it can be done." As Henin-Hardenne sensationally proved in Paris.

Carillo forecasts a return to more net play, if not pure serve-and-volley. "Very few trust that you need not hit a great volley to win at the net," says the former serve-and-volleyer. "A good serve and a good approach will give you a good volley. A great serve gives you an easy volley; so does a great approach. I’d love to see both genders embrace that truth and use the whole court. To me that’s the next great evolution in women’s tennis: All-Court Big Babeosity."

Hopper is counting on the tide to turn. He has witnessed a sea change in the game before. "I had the future prototype in my hands with Mark Philippoussis," says the 47-year-old sport scientist. "If you could have designed a future champion, you would have come up with Mark: 6-foot-5, huge serve, powerful and agile. But what everyone — including me — expected to happen did not eventuate. We’ve had Lleyton Hewitt at the top for two years and there are lots of players under 6 feet coming up — Richard Gasquet, Rafael Nadal — unbelievable athletes with incredible foot speed. If you’re small and slow, you have no chance. But if you’re small and quick, with athletic talent, there’s definitely a place for you at the top level. There’ll be a correction as with the men, otherwise I may as well give up with Jade."

Both Jade and her 8-year-old sister Skye are already playing international tournaments and are being groomed as Australia’s answer to Venus and Serena. But their inspiration is the feisty Hewitt. "We’re modelling Jade’s game on Lleyton’s," Hopper says, convinced a female version can upset the applecart. In fact, the evolution of tennis dictates it. "Coaches and players will develop a game to counter the power game of the moment," he asserts. "The next generation of young girls are physically big, but the group after them is a little different. The younger juniors are being taught not to match the Williamses in terms of power, but to use it and do something different. I do believe that tennis will again swing to a Henin-Hardenne type — quick, with a complete game, never misses — probably more in hope than anything."

Contributing Writer Suzi Petkovski covers the the world of tennis from her Australian base. She covered the Great Britain — Australia Davis Cup tie in the March 11th Tennis Week.

15,624 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
Turf Wars: A Wimbledon preview

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The tradition continues on Monday, as Wimbledon will get underway at the venerable All England Club, with Lleyton Hewitt and Serena Williams as your defending champions.

Will Hewitt and Serena repeat at SW19? Only time will tell over the next 2 1/2 weeks, but the gritty stars could have the inside track at repeat performances.

Hewitt is a two-time Grand Slam event titlist, with his greatest victories coming at the 2001 U.S. Open and last year's "Wimby" extravaganza when he beat a completely overmatched David Nalbandian in a disappointing final.

Serena, on the other hand, is a five-time major champion, having won four of the last five Slams, as well as the 1999 U.S. Open. Serena had her Grand Slam streak broken by little Justine Henin-Hardenne in this month's French Open semis, as the American superstar had won four straight majors and 33 consecutive Grand Slam matches before the Belgian stepped in.

The world No. 1 Serena, of course, won four of the last five Slams by besting her big sister Venus in the finals, and Venus is no slouch at the majors, having won four of 'em (the 2000 and 2001 Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles).

Serena Williams had her Grand Slam streak broken by little Justine Henin-Hardenne in this month's French Open semis.

The top-seeded Serena and fourth-seeded Venus are in opposite halves of the draw, which means they could meet in yet another Grand Slam final. Is this really what we want? Their head-to-head battles don't typically produce great tennis, as we all know.

Back to the men.

Hewitt, just as he did at this year's Aussie and French Opens, will have his hands full with a loaded field. The fiery star failed to get past the fourth round in the season's first two Slams, suffering a fourth-round loss against big-serving Moroccan Younes El Aynaoui in Melbourne and a third-round setback versus rising Spaniard Tommy Robredo at Roland Garros.

The speedy Aussie, however, is the reigning Wimbledon champ, as he became the first baseliner since Andre Agassi in 1992 to capture the undisputed king of tennis tournaments.

I expect the Australian Open champion Agassi, Tim Henman, Andy Roddick, Greg Rusedski and Marat Safin to pose the biggest threats to Hewitt's reign. Hewitt dodged a bullet when 1996 Wimbledon champ Richard Krajicek pulled out this week, citing an elbow injury. Krajicek, a surprise quarterfinalist last year, could have been a potential second-round opponent for the current champ.

Agassi is a former Wimbledon champion and currently stands as the world's No. 1 star, after supplanting Hewitt atop the ATP rankings this week. Agassi is a stellar 11-1 at the majors this year, with his only loss coming against Argentine dirt-baller Guillermo Coria in the French Open quarters.

The 33-year-old Agassi, the oldest man to ever hold the world No. 1 ranking, could meet Hewitt in a marquee baseline-tennis final, and such a final is quite possible on the slower rye grass at the storied AEC.
Andre Agassi is a former Wimbledon champion and currently stands as the world's No. 1 star, after supplanting Lleyton Hewitt atop the ATP rankings this week.

Henman is perhaps the best remaining serve-and-volley performer on the planet (if you don't include the quasi-retired Sampras). "Our Tim" has reached the Wimbledon semis four out of the last five years, and will try to give England its first male Brit finalist in 65 years (Bunny Austin in 1938). Can Henman overcome that type of pressure in front of the home faithful? I doubt it.

Look out for Roddick. His lethal serve is a virtually-unstoppable weapon on the grass, as evidenced by his 149-mile-per-hour launch at last week's Wimby tune-up at Queen's Club, where the young American captured his first-ever grass-court title and beat his fellow American Agassi en route to his Stella Artois plaudits.

The 20-year-old Roddick is now employing former Agassi coach Brad Gilbert as his mentor and is 1-0 in tournaments under Gilbert's tutelage.

Roddick sailed all the way to the Aussie Open semis five months ago, but suffered a stunning first-round loss against journeyman Sargis Sargsian at the French, prompting him to fire his now former coach Tarik Benhabiles.

The fragile Roddick also has a knack for getting injured, so he'll obviously need to avoid that in order to run the table.

Danger also lurks for Hewitt from the likes of Rusedski and Safin. Rusedski is a clever grass-courter who's currently relocating his game after being sidelined by injuries for almost six months. He's one of the few guys who can actually match Roddick serve-for-serve, as only Rusedski and Roddick have been clocked at 149 miles per hour during an ATP match.

The oft-injured/flaky Safin could be a darkhorse pick at Wimbledon. When the big Russian's "on" he's unbeatable. But he hasn't been "on" this entire season, one in which he's 12-6 with nary a championship. He bowed out in the third round in Melbourne and skipped the French Open due to injury. Safin is always dangerous, but he usually succumbs to the pressure in the late rounds of the Slams, with the exception of the 2000 U.S. Open when he destroyed Sampras in the final.

Safin lost to tiny Belgian Olivier Rochus in the second round at last year's edition of Wimbledon, and is most certainly a hard one to figure out.

Did I forget to mention French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero or silky- smooth Swiss Roger Federer? I don't think so.

Ferrero is not at his best on grass, as evidenced by his 3-2 career mark at Wimbledon, while the "Fed" just refuses to step it up at the Slams, as evidenced by his recent first-round loss against Luis Horna (who?) at the French Open and his bevy of opening-round setbacks at Wimbledon, including last year's stunner against Mario Ancic. Federer reached the Wimby quarters in 2001, but his other three trips have resulted in first-round exits.

Go figure.

Back to the women.

I think Serena can expect a stiff challenge from four women at the "Big W" -- the French Open champion Henin-Hardenne, French Open runner-up Kim Clijsters, former Wimbledon winner Lindsay Davenport, and Venus.

If Serena can stay within herself (recently rattled by a hostile French Open crowd), she'll repeat early next month.

Note: Serena hasn't titled anywhere since the NASDAQ-100 Open in Miami back in March. She's only lost three matches since then, but two of 'em came against Henin-Hardenne (at a final in Charleston and the semis in Paris), while her other setback came against French star Amelie Mauresmo in a semifinal bout in Rome.

The red-hot Henin-Hardenne is a perfect 2-0 against Serena this year and has won 14 straight and 22 of her last 23 matches overall. The Belgian star was a Wimbledon finalist in 2001, but lost to Venus, who also topped her in last year's semis.

The world No. 2 Clijsters should be primed for her Grand Slam breakthrough.

Is she?

Clijsters was my pick to title at Roland Garros, but came up small in the historic all-Belgian final against her "good friend" Henin-Hardenne.

Davenport is trying to get her once-formidable game together and is probably at her best on the grass, where her powerful, flat strokes are at their most lethal. She's a two-time Wimbledon finalist and captured the event in 1999 by topping the legendary Steffi Graf in the title match.

Venus is seeking her first Grand Slam title since the 2001 U.S. Open and appears to have her best shot on grass. If she serves at her best and plays with desire, Venus can prevail at Wimbledon, again.

Did I overlook Jennifer Capriati or Mauresmo? Of course not. Capriati hasn't titled in 17 months and Mauresmo usually finds some way to choke at the Slams, despite reaching Wimbledon and U.S. Open semifinals last year.

I'm pickin' the eight-time Grand Slam event champion Agassi to prevail among the men, and I like Serena to rebound and repeat among the women. If Agassi slips up at all, it could be Hewitt or Roddick, while a Serena misfire could lead to hardware guessed it, Venus.

Ace or double fault? Send your comments to Scott Riley

15,624 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
Serena shrugs off doubt
Fri Jun 20, 8:04 AM ET Add Sports - USA TODAY to My Yahoo!

Doug Smith USA TODAY

Two weeks after absorbing the most traumatic setback of her young career, Serena Williams (news - web sites) re-enters her work arena Tuesday at Wimbledon (news - web sites) with the frenetic London tabloids eager to examine her every move for lingering adverse signs of her French Open (news - web sites) debacle.

The sight of America's most visible and dynamic female athlete, known for her ability to intimidate foes, reduced to uncontrollable tears raises questions.

* Can Williams, seeded No. 1, shove aside memories of her semifinal loss to Belgium's Justine Henin-Hardenne in Paris, which ended her bid for a fifth consecutive Grand Slam tournament title? Or will the loss be a negative catalyst and will Williams' confidence sag?

* Can she forever silence the catcalls and boos she was subjected to during her loss from the unruly French fans? Will the savvy Wimbledon fans, who witnessed the French treatment, greet Williams with cheers or jeers?

* Will suspicions fade or be borne out that racial bias played a role in the French Open crowd's anti-Serena be-havior, or were fans reacting to a perceived arrogance on Williams' part?

In March, when asked about the anti-French sentiment in the USA because of France's opposition to the impending war in Iraq (news - web sites), Williams snickered and said in a facetious French accent, ''Well, we don't want to play in the war. We want to make clothes. We don't want the war.''

French reporters called her comments ''maladroit.''

And during the French Open semifinal, Williams committed a faux pas by making her own calls on balls in or out. Whether she was correct wasn't the issue. The French tennis fans take their officials and their duties seriously.

Perhaps the Roland Garros treatment of Williams was simply a consequence of the tennis fans' natural inclination to root for the underdog.

Whatever the reason for the crowd upheaval and her resulting meltdown, Williams, with her WTA Tour-leading 31-3 record, begins a determined defense of her Wimbledon title.

Competing on the grass surface more suited for her power strokes, Williams faces No. 66 Jill Craybas in the first round en route to another potential semifinal matchup against French Open champion Henin-Hardenne.

Standing up to the crowds

Although troubled by the events in Paris, Williams dismissed suggestions she might need counseling before returning to the court.

''I definitely don't need a shrink, that's for sure,'' she said in an interview. ''I'm just going to be (better prepared) next time. You've always got to be ready for everything, and I just don't think I was. I can say, 'I can do it. It's easy.' But deep down, it hurts.''

Upon further reflection, Williams, 21, said, ''If anything, it just makes me a stronger individual. I actually look forward to playing these players again.''

Former pro Zina Garrison, appointed mentor by the women's tour to Williams when she turned pro at 14, said the game's top power hitter won't lose her focus or desire to stay at the top.

''She's very capable of rebounding from the French Open experience,'' Garrison said. ''People look at her athletic ability, but Serena also has the ability -- mentally -- to be as tough as nails. She can run four or five games on an opponent without them hardly touching a ball. And she likes being No. 1. In fact, she loves being No. 1.''

Williams, in losing to Henin-Hardenne for the second time this year, lost some of her status as the game's most intimidating pro. She wept throughout her postmatch news conference in Paris, visibly shaken as much by the fans' hostility as she was by the loss.

''I'm not used to crying,'' Williams said. ''It's a little difficult. All my life I've had to fight. So it's just another fight I'm going to have to learn how to win. That's all.

''I've just got to keep smiling. If you smile, things will work out.''

But the French Open fans, who clapped for Williams' unforced errors, including double faults, left neither the Williams family nor Larry Scott, the WTA Tour's chief executive officer, in a cheery mood.

Williams' parents, Richard Williams and Oracene Price, expressed concern to Scott regarding their daughter's treatment. It called to mind that neither Serena nor her sister Venus has played at an Indian Wells (Calif.) event since their father accused the California crowd of racism two years ago.

Addressing whether the French Open crowd was motivated by racial bias, Scott said, ''I didn't interpret it that way, but I realize that others might. I felt it was a combination of things, mostly about crowds favoring the underdog. And it was a very Belgium crowd. I don't think we should expect that.

''It was a disappointing and disturbing reaction from the crowd. I was concerned about it, and I felt a lot of empathy for how Serena felt on the court, and I expressed that to her family. But it also conveys some of the emotion of the sport.''

Keven Davis, the Williams' family attorney who was in the family's box during the loss to Henin-Hardenne, said he felt ''a pain in his gut'' as he listened to the crowd applaud Williams' miscues.

''It wasn't everybody, but it was sprinkled throughout and gave me the feeling that the air was full of hate,'' Davis said.

''It felt like a mob mentality, something more than competition. We know that tennis is a microcosm of our society, so it would be naive for us to think that race does not have some role in all of this. How big or how small, we'll never know.''

Harvard psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint said the Williams sisters' success and self-assurance might continue to trigger such attacks.

''They've struggled hard, had to be tough and not give in to anybody,'' Poussaint said. ''Sometimes that attitude in both black men and black women frequently is not well accepted by whites. They would like to see more docility.

''There have been players from (John) McEnroe to some females out there, angry and doing something, but (who) never got that kind of intense attack. What is the difference? One of the elements is race.''

Game for getting out there

Race, however, hasn't prevented Williams from becoming tennis' most marketable player.

Williams' endorsement deals with Puma, Wilson, Wrigley's Doublemint gum, Avon, Close-Up toothpaste, McDonald's and Sega and Konami video games are worth an estimated $20 million.

''Her style of play has raised the bar, as other champions have done over the years,'' Scott said. ''She's taken the game to a new level in terms of her athleticism and her power and has been recognized as one of the most popular athletes in the world.''

Enthralling to many because of her rags-to-riches story, Serena is half of one of the sports world's most intriguing sibling rivalries.

Williams' sister Venus, who has won Wimbledon twice, is seeded No. 4. The two could meet in the final if they advance that far. Venus was Williams' victim in all four of her ''Serena Slam'' victories from the 2002 French to 2003 Australian Opens.

Williams says she's eager to test her skills in other areas, too. She yearns to be a model, fashion designer and movie star and already has had bit parts in a film -- Black Knight, with Martin Lawrence -- and a television sitcom, ABC's My Wife and Kids. Williams says she'll say no to any film or television projects involving tennis.

''I believe I'm a good actress, and I have a lot of skill,'' Williams said. ''I would like to challenge myself. Playing a part in a tennis movie isn't challenging for me at all, and I would like to do something that challenges my acting skills.''

But she's in no hurry to make a career change and expects to be pounding tennis balls for years to come.

''I can't even see the finish line right now,'' Williams said. ''It's so far ahead of me.

''Hopefully, I'll be able to keep it that way for another seven or eight years. I would like to go as long as I can, as long as I'm healthy and enjoying it.''

15,624 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
PRO GAME: Wimbledon Preview: Ground Control

6/20/03 0:01 AM

The reigning Wimbledon champions won from the baseline, challenging conventional wisdom about what makes a grass-court game. And there's little reason to think 2003 will be any different.

By Stephen Tignor

From the July 2003 issue of TENNIS Magazine

Is Wimbledon on its way to becoming, dare we say it, relevant? Can an event held at a place called the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club—known for its anachronistic surface, all-white dress code, and deadening, one-shot slugfests—matter to the pro game in 2003?

If last year's tournament is any indication, well, yes. On the men's side, it was the long-delayed baseliner breakout. Having spent the past decade conquering the rest of the tennis world, ground strokers at last stormed All England's gates. Not only was the final, between Lleyton Hewitt and David Nalbandian, the first baseline-to-baseline title match since Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors faced off in 1978, but six of the eight 2002 quarterfinalists played from the backcourt. For the women, it was the same story, only writ larger. Venus and Serena Williams played the second of their three straight 2002 Grand Slam finals, and they dominated more thoroughly than anywhere else—between them, they dropped just one set before the final. If the results weren't exactly surprising, the women's draw as a whole confirmed that baseline bashing is as firmly entrenched at Wimbledon, where Jana Novotna's 1998 win was the only one for a serve-and-volleyer in the last 12 years, as it is everywhere else on the WTA tour. All eight women quarterfinalists in 2002 were baseliners.

So how did the sport's great anomaly among the men, where even the inventor of the modern baseline game, Ivan Lendl, felt he had to serve and volley, get so normal so quickly? First of all, there was the court speed, which by most accounts was slower in 2002 than in years past. Eddie Seaward, Wimbledon's head groundsman, told The Observer last year, "We've got the courts harder these days. As a result, you're getting a higher bounce, which may slow the game down." He said the turf was now comparable to the surface at London's Queen's Club, where Hewitt is the three-time defending champion.

While spectators were entertained with longer rallies, the harder surface may have hurt the chances of England's favorite son, serve-and-volleyer Tim Henman. "It was a bit worrying last year," Henman says. "Grass is meant to be a serve-and-volley surface. It was amazing how slow and high-bouncing the courts were. It was emphasized in the results." He should get used to it—the Club doesn't plan any groundskeeping changes for 2003.

But Henman also knows he can't blame the grass alone. Power-baseline tennis is everywhere, and it was only a matter of time before the few remaining serve-and-volley contenders—Patrick Rafter, Goran Ivanisevic, and Pete Sampras (who won't be playing this year)—faded from the scene. The question now is, has Hewitt's game, which is based on quickness, consistency, and a rock-solid return of serve, replaced theirs as the blueprint for grass-court success?

Hewitt doesn't think so. "I don't see a changing of the guard," he says. "Guys like Henman, Sampras, Federer are going to be as tough as ever on grass. If I'm serving well and have a chance to break, I can play on it. I think last year was somewhat special, the draw opened up."

Bowing Out
The All England Club bucks tradition. Yes, it's true

By James Martin

It was a radical move that had asking, "Is Wimbledon falling apart?" and proclaiming that it had "shaken the world of sport to its very core." We're talking, of course, about the All England Club's decision to eliminate one of its most enduring traditions, the bow and curtsy—this year, players will no longer have to show their respect to the Royal Box.

Who's behind this bold stroke? It was made at the request of the Duke of Kent, the All England Club's president since 1969.

"It's sad, but we have to move on," says All England chief executive Christopher Gorringe. "We know there's very little bowing or curtsying done in royal circles now."

Britain's Tim Henman thinks it's a bloody shame. "A couple of years ago at my golf event, the Duchess of Kent told me she wasn't in favor of it anymore," he says. "In some respects it's one of the traditions I think people enjoy."

Take heart, Tim, there are exceptions: Players must still curtsy or bow if Queen Elizabeth or Prince Charles are in attendance. Then again, don't hold your breath. The last time the Queen showed up was in 1977, to present the winner's plate to Virginia Wade. And the Prince has popped in just once, in 1970.

Opinions on whether Wimbledon has changed irrevocably vary among the young baseline-roaming contenders. "I don't think you ever had to be a serve-and-volleyer to win it, going back to Borg and Connors," Andy Roddick says. "I think [last year's Wimbledon] opened people's eyes to the fact that even if I don't play a grass-court game, I can still win matches." Roger Federer adds, "If you can move well on grass and return well, it's a huge advantage, better than having a big serve and a good volley."

James Blake, on the other hand, agrees with Hewitt. "I don't think [the 2002 final] changed anything," Blake says. "Lleyton won because he's No. 1 in the world and he can win on any surface. The serve-and-volleyers still have a very good chance."

Either way, it's unlikely that today's young guns will overhaul their games just for Wimbledon, the way backcourters like Lendl and Borg did. But then, Lendl and Borg had a common rival, John McEnroe, who took their second serves and used his return to get into the front court as quickly as possible. That chip-and-charge style is out of fashion these days—not to mention nearly impossible to play with the two-handed backhands now so common.

But components of the classic grass-court game remain in play, at least at Wimbledon. Last year, Greg Rusedski used his chip backhand and varied shot selection to counter Roddick's pace, dismantling him in straight sets. And as well as Blake played against 1996 champion Richard Krajicek, the Dutchman's relentless net-rushing won out. "If you serve well and volley well," Rusedski says about playing at Wimbledon, "the surface doesn't matter. The most important thing is having a complete game." Even Marat Safin, a power-baseliner not known for his resourcefulness on court, realizes that a one-dimensional style won't get it done on grass. "A player like me cannot win on the baseline like Lleyton did," Safin says. "I'll have to go to the net, maybe serve and volley twice [a game], so the guy is a bit confused."

So the serve-and-volleyer isn't dead yet. Still, it was the dirtballers who were the surprise success story last year. Through the middle rounds, the All England Club looked like it was hosting a second-tier clay-court event, with Nalbandian joined by two other relatively unknown South Americans, Andre Sá and Nicolas Lapentti, in the quarterfinals. Will this spur the top rank of clay-courters to finally take the tournament seriously?

Last year, Albert Costa won at Roland Garros and went on his honeymoon rather than go to London; Gustavo Kuerten, always focused on Paris in springtime, also skipped the Big W. Juan Carlos Ferrero, though, seems a bit more hopeful this time around. "Who knows? Hewitt won from the baseline," he says. "I'm going to give it the same level of effort I do for any Grand Slam." But Alex Corretja, who hasn't played Wimbledon since 1998, is still skeptical. "There's just not enough time to prepare," he says. "You can't play for three months on clay and then do well on grass the next week. It's a pity, but that's the way the schedule is. There are exceptions, like Agassi, but he's something special."

What about Andre, anyway? He's one of the few other baseliners to win here, and his titles in Melbourne and Key Biscayne this year have kept him near the top of the rankings. He's always believed you can succeed with ground strokes on grass and has a 41-11 Wimbledon record to prove it. "There are fewer traditional grass-court players now than there used to be," Agassi says. "That opens the possibility of somebody getting through who might not normally, and once you're into the second week, the court starts playing differently, the ball starts bouncing up more. A lot can happen."

Rhythm is everything for Agassi, and he can be vulnerable to someone who hits big enough to take him out of it—Paradorn Srichaphan made his name by doing just that on Centre Court last year. Still, Agassi's compact strokes separate him from the clay-courters and make him a threat to dethrone Hewitt.

Are there any others? Younes El Aynaoui outhit Hewitt at the Australian Open this year; and in 2001 Nicolas Escudé did the same at Wimbledon. Both are streaky, athletic shotmakers who can finish points at the net. Look for someone similar to give Hewitt a run—Federer, Blake, Carlos Moya, perhaps Safin, if his head is together. The key will be producing enough power to get Hewitt scrambling and then being consistent enough to do it for three sets. Look for Henman, who's had shoulder trouble, to beat anyone but Hewitt—he's 0-6 against the Aussie.

Of course, there's another guy who has been to the final of this event four times. In fact, his record ace totals are as responsible as anything else for giving the men's event its reputation for dullness. Could that old-school grass specialist Ivanisevic turn Wimbledon back into its normal abnormal self? He's had shoulder problems and a piece of a seashell stuck in his foot, but nobody will want to face him.

While the men's draw was opened wide in 2002, the women provided few surprises, and the WTA's top tier has grown even tighter since. For the last year, in fact, it has consisted of one person. That's Serena Williams, and if you want a prototypical modern grass-courter, look no further—she may be even more fearsome than the woman who brought power-baseline tennis here, Steffi Graf. Where Hewitt wins with steadiness, Serena and her sister Venus, winners of the last three Wimbledons, overpower the rest of the field. And the rest of the field knows it.

Lindsay Davenport: "On grass, it's very hard to control their shots with the pace they hit at."

Jennifer Capriati: "Grass makes everything faster, so it's an advantage [for the Williamses]."

Kim Clijsters: "Their serves are tougher on grass and their power strokes are tough."

Whether the surface has been slowed down or not (few of the women talked about it last year, while virtually all of the men did), Serena and Venus are daunting on grass because they combine all the attributes needed to win on it. Their big serves and offensive two-handed returns give them first-strike capability; they're quick and athletic; and they've always had the desire—Venus' ambition growing up was to win Wimbledon, and Serena copied her when she set her goals for 2002.

Each of them can crank her serve 115 m.p.h. and, like Graf or Sampras, use it to get out of trouble. But like Agassi, the Williamses can also take control of a point with their returns—at the Australian Open this year Serena was clocked hitting balls back faster than her opponents served them. Plus, grass rewards their aggressive shotmaking without demanding consistency the way clay does. As Serena says, "I like grass because you can hit one hard shot and come to the net and finish the point. With clay, you need three or four more."

Should we book an all-Williams final? There are five players with a plausible chance of beating them, and none has a complete grass-court game. Davenport has won here, and she can equal the Williamses' power, but she can't match their quickness. Clijsters has the athleticism, but her serve isn't a weapon. Ditto Capriati. Justine Henin-Hardenne and Amelie Mauresmo have played well in 2003, but their one-handed backhands keep them from taking control of points with their returns. The two were blown out by the Williamses in the semifinals here last year and had the same response afterward: "She didn't let me do anything."

These women have reason to feel demoralized. As of this spring, the five had a 23-65 record against the Williams sisters (factor out Davenport's 10-11 record against Venus and the percentage gets even worse).

So what will separate the sisters here? While Venus has won the title twice, grass favors the attacker, and Serena is more aggressive from the ground. She also has shorter strokes, a more consistent serve, and the knowledge that she can beat her sister in the big events. And she still wants it. "Of course, the U.S. Open pays more," Serena said this spring when she was asked about her favorite tournament to win, "but Wimbledon has more history."


We rate the contenders from one star (forget about it)
to five (good bet)

Andre Agassi, 33
Las Vegas * * * * ½
Can you think of a reason why the oldest man to become No. 1 can't become the oldest to win here? Best result: 1992, champion. Runner-up in his three previous Slam finals, he finally broke through. Worst: 1996, first round. Bounced by unheralded Doug Flach.

James Blake, 23
Tampa, Fla. * *
He plays an all-court game that's dangerous on grass, but as of this spring he'd never been past the round of 16 at a major. Best result: 2002, second round. In his first Wimbledon, went 11-9 in the fifth with Richard Krajicek.

Roger Federer, 21
Switzerland * * * *
It's a question of when, not if, this smooth shotmaker will win here. Best result: 2001, quarterfinals. Ended Sampras' 31-match All England Club streak. Worst: 2002, first round. Fell to huge expectations—and Grand Slam neophyte Mario Ancic.

Juan Carlos Ferrero, 23
Spain * * *
His game is as wrong for grass as it is right for clay, but unlike other dirtballers, he says he'll try his best, which is worth an extra ball. Best result: 2001, third round. Lost to grass-court toughie Greg Rusedski. Worst: 2002, second round. It was the only other year he played.

Tim Henman, 28,
England * * * *
His attacking style is effective, but the pressure of the semifinals has gotten to him all four times he's been there. Best result: 2001, semifinals. Came within two points of becoming first Briton to reach the Wimbledon final since Bunny Austin in 1938, losing to Ivanisevic. Worst: 2000, fourth round. Only time in last five years he didn't reach the semifinals.

Lleyton Hewitt, 22,
Australia * * * * ½
He's the fastest player, the best lobber, and one of the best returners, but he beat only one seeded player en route to last year's title. Best result: 2002, champion. Became the first baseliner to win since Agassi in 1992. Worst: 2000, first round. Blitzed by Jan-Michael Gambill.

David Nalbandian, 21,
Argentina * *
Last year, he reached the final in his first tournament on grass. He prefers fast surfaces but there are a lot of guys out there with more game. Best result: 2002, final. Shocked the world, then came down to earth against Hewitt.

Andy Roddick, 20,
Boca Raton, Fla. * * * ½
His serve alone can carry him far, but he's no ace machine like Ivanisevic. To reach the semis, he'll need to add variety to his game. Best result: 2001, third round. Served off the court by Ivanisevic, like just about everyone else at some point. Worst: 2002, third round. Chip-and-charger Greg Rusedski gave him a grass-court lesson.

Greg Rusedski, 29,
England * * * ½
If he gets match tough after missing almost six months with injuries, this clever grass-courter could surprise everyone. Best result: 1997, quarterfinals. Blew his chance with a loss to Cedric Pioline. Worst: 2000, first round. Helped Vince Spadea break his record losing streak.

Marat Safin, 23,
Russia * * * ½
A player this flaky is almost sure to crumble under the pressure of a semi or final here. Best result: 2001, quarterfinals. Another dream shattered by Ivanisevic. Worst: 2002, second round. Lost to a guy 11 inches shorter, Olivier Rochus.


We rate the contenders from one star (forget about it)
to five (good bet)

Jennifer Capriati, 27,
Saddlebrook, Fla. * * *
She's had her moments this year, but the magic of 2001 seems a lifetime away. Best result: 1991, semifinals. Beat Martina Navratilova. Worst: 1999, second round. Routed by Seda Noorlander.

Kim Clijsters, 20,
Belgium * * * *
Her athleticism and potent strokes will serve her well. If the Williamses falter, she's the most likely to succeed. Best result: 2001, quarterfinals. Worst: 2002, second round. Upset by No. 48 Elena Likhovtseva.

Jelena Dokic, 20,
Serbia-Montenegro * * *
Her baseline bashing is well-suited to grass. Look for a third straight fourth-round finish. Best result: 2000, semifinals. Her best Slam finish so far. Worst: 2002, fourth round. Daniela Hantuchova replaced her as the new talent on the block.

Lindsay Davenport, 27,
Laguna Beach, Calif. * * * *
Her best shot at another Slam may be on grass, where her hard, flat strokes are most lethal. Best result: 1999, champion. Sent Steffi Graf packing in the final. Worst: 1997, second round. Beat up by Denisa Chladkova.

Daniela Hantuchova, 20,
Slovakia * *
Has the all-court tools, but her game is green. Best result: 2002, quarterfinals. Successful second trip. Worst: 2001, second round. Faced Venus.

Justine Henin-Hardenne, 21,
Belgium * * * *
Shows up big at the big events and has beaten Serena this year. Best result: 2001, final. Pushed Venus to three. Worst: 2002, semifinals. Looked overmatched against, yes, Venus.

Amelie Mauresmo, 24,
France * * *
Her newfound willingness to finish points at net makes her a contender. Best result: 2002, semifinals. Upset Capriati in the quarters. Worst: 2000, first round. It wasn't long ago that she was DOA on grass.

Chanda Rubin, 27,
Lafayette, La. *
She has great fighting spirit but struggles on grass Best result: 2002, fourth round. Nice run but didn't beat a high seed. Worst: 1997, first round. Won all of two games off Anna Kournikova.

Meghann Shaughnessy, 24,
Scottsdale, Ariz. * *
Beat Venus Williams this spring, but she's still more than a few steps from stardom. Best result: 2001, fourth round. Lost a tight two-setter to Clijsters. Worst: 2002, second round. Failed to build on 2001 success.

Serena Williams, 21,
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. * * * * *
If she keeps the errors down, she'll win. Best result: 2002, champion. Won her second straight major final. Worst: 1998, third round. She hasn't lost earlier at a Slam since.

Venus Williams, 23,
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. * * * * ½
If she serves well and plays with passion, this may be the best place for Venus to beat little sister. Best result: 2000, champion. Won her first major. Worst: 1997, first round. Lost, somehow, to a woman named to Magdalena Grzybowska.

15,624 Posts
Discussion Starter #13

Click here for Ladies Wimbledon Best Odds

The domination of the Williams sisters is suddenly not as secure as it once was, and this should serve to make for a fascinating Wimbledon. At the French Open last month, neither sister even made it to the final. Instead it was battled out between two Belgians, Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters. For the time being at least, it seems certain that one of these four will lift any given Grand Slam.

Wimbledon throws up a unique set of circumstances for the players, and the grass court championships traditionally suit the powerful servers and players that can volley. This should play into the hands of the Williams’s who have really taken ladies tennis to a new level in these terms. However, the Belgian pair have huge ability and certainly possess the talent to do well on grass, mainly through touch and finesse than pure grunt. We shall take an in-depth look at these four before seeing if we can identify any players who may cause an upset.

It should also be said that there have been some high profile withdrawals, including Monica Seles, Amelie Mauresmo and Anna Kournikova.

Serena Williams is world number one by some distance, and priced as the 8/11 favourite for the title. Previous to the French Open last month, the last four Grand Slam titles had fallen to her. The Parisian crowd gave her a great deal of abuse that ultimately reduced Serena to tears.

The folk of SW19 are far more gentile though, and she will be given the respect that a champion of her stature demands. She won her first 24 matches of the year and that included the Australian Open. However, she has not won either for the last two events she entered, in Rome and at Roland Garros. In the latter, her conqueror was Justin Henin-Hardenne and this was the second time since April that the Belgian has beaten her.

The two are due to meet in the semi finals, although either Jennifer Capriati or Conchita Martinez could cause some problems in the quarters. The draw has thrown up few other potential banana skins though and it should be plain sailing for the first week at least. With these odds though, we do not feel able to support her.

Most of the spotlight might have been snatched by her younger sister, but Venus Williams is still a force to be reckoned with.

Despite having to swallow the bitter pill of losing to Serena in four straight Grand Slam finals over the past year, she remains her sister's driving inspiration
But it is at SW19 that the two-time Wimbledon champion has enjoyed some of her greatest success, beating Lindsay Davenport and Justine Henin in the 2000 and 2001 finals respectively.

Her 2003 season began with the disappointment of a three-set loss to Serena at the Australian Open - though she has since picked up a title in Antwerp beating Clijsters in the final.
Venus should be able to use the fast grass courts at Wimbledon to exploit her physical prowess to the maximum. Her semi final opponent is likely to be Kim Clijsters, and Williams has won four of their five completed matches. We would fancy her to win that but having lost those four consecutive finals it would be tough to have confidene in her pulling it off.

Over the past six months, Kim Clijsters has emerged as a likely player to upset the Williams sisters' domination of the sport - something she proved by replacing Venus as the world number two.

Having suffered injury and illness in 2002, Clijsters found her form again this season, winning three titles - in Sydney, Indian Wells and Rome.

What is still missing is a Grand Slam trophy, which she narrowly missed out on at this year's French Open when she was beaten by compatriot Henin-Hardenne in the final.

Reaching the quarter-finals in 2001 remains her best performance at SW19, while last year she was sent packing in the second round by unseeded Russian Elena Likhovtseva. This is not exceptional form and so we think she is priced too short at 6/1.

At the WTA Tour Championships in November, Clijsters beat Venus in the semi-finals before battling past Serena in the final in straight sets and so should not be written off. Her overall record against them is not good though, and with the final drubbing by Henin in Paris, her nerve in the latter stages may well be a determining question mark.

Along with Clijsters, Justine Henin-Hardenne has helped put her country on the tennis map, ensuring that two of the top four spots in the world rankings are occupied by Belgians.
Although she was eclipsed by her Clijsters during the latter stages of last year, Henin-Hardenne has stepped up her game this season, culminating in her recent victory at the French Open.
She reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open, having overcome cramp and a 4-1 final set deficit against Lindsay Davenport in an earlier round.
Her opening title of the season came in Dubai before she stunned observers by inflicting a first defeat of the year on Serena Williams in the final of the Family Circle Cup in Charleston.

She then defeated Clijsters in three sets to defend her title at the German Open before beating her fellow Belgian again in the final at Roland Garros.

Henin-Hardenne boasts an excellent record at Wimbledon, having reached her first Grand Slam final before losing to Venus at Wimbledon in 2001 and making it to the semi-finals before again succumbing to Venus last year. All in all we believe that this is where the money should be going and odds of 8/1 are very attractive. She has the game to beat the best and a fine record at Wimbledon to go with the fact that her confidence must be sky high after Roland Garros.


1999 champion Lindsey Davenport makes a return to Wimbledon after taking two years off with injuries. Of all the surfaces it is grass that should suit her big serving game. However, she has largely struggled to make an impact since the emergence of the Williams sisters, and Venus has accounted for her fellow American on her last two visits to Wimbledon.

Daniela Hantuchova made it to the quarterfinals last year, and will be hoping to go even better this time. However her form has hit a bit of a slump and will probably be beaten by Davenport who is in the same section of the draw.

Jennifer Capriati became the youngest ever seed at Wimbledon twelve years ago, and is seeded at eight this time around. However, her nemesis is Serena Williams to whom she has lost the last seven meetings. With the two of them due to meet in the quarterfinals we cannot see any progression past this point.

15,624 Posts
Discussion Starter #14
Serena to bury Garros demons
By Leo Schlink in London
SERENA Williams plans to exorcise the demons of an emotional French Open campaign by venting her frustration on compatriot Jill Craybas.

Modestly performed Craybas will be Williams' first opponent as the world No. 1 moves to re-establish herself as the pre-eminent force in women's tennis.

Williams, 21, will not discuss title triumphs. After Paris, where she was befuddled by a hostile crowd and then left in tears by Justine Henin-Hardenne's immovable stance on etiquette in their semi-final, Williams has no plans other than to soak up Wimbledon's history.

The Californian cannot wait to scan down the champions' honour board in search of her and sister Venus's names. Then, just before she tackles 66th-ranked Craybas, she will seek inspiration from Rudyard Kipling's quotation in the waiting room: "If you can meet with triumph and disaster. And treat those two impostors just the same."

"Then, I'll be thinking about who I'm playing," Williams said.

"I'll be telling myself to move my feet, turn and look at the ball and concentrate on my first serve."

Williams is pleased to have returned to London as she reflected on the hostility of a French crowd that could have been interpreted as racism.

For Williams, having her father Richard called a "******" at Indian Wells, California, two years ago surpasses her own experiences, but that day at Roland Garros undoubtedly seared deep into her soul.

"It wasn't the worst I have suffered," Williams said of the crowd. "But it did surprise me. I just didn't understand why. I mean, I wasn't throwing my racquet, or cursing and yelling or anything. I was just playing tennis.

"But it is nothing new. It is something I have had to deal with all my life. In a way there are things you never forget. But there are things that you should forget. But it is hard, of course it is. I just try to keep thinking positive and tell myself I gotta get over that."

Williams was so affected by the stinging French Open reception she was too distressed to pack her bags before boarding a private jet to London and then catching the Concorde to the United States.

She immediately buried herself in practice, commuting daily to a grasscourt in Miami, where she rediscovered her devastating service.

"The serve has been marvellous. I'm really excited about it," Williams said. "I served so badly in Paris. I was upset because in many ways I beat myself serving like that. It wasn't good enough."

Repeatedly, Williams raises the issue of crowd attitude. But there are no more hospitable galleries than those at Wimbledon.

"In England everyone is so polite," she said. "I really like the tradition.

"I even like the fact that we have to wear all white. When I was younger I thought it was a bit weird, but now I really like it."

Desperate to match Venus's feat of successive Wimbledon titles (2000-01) this year, Williams will face a stiff challenge from French Open champion Henin-Hardenne.

Kim Clijsters, Amelie Mauresmo, Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati complete the usual band of suspects, while Australia's leading hopes are Alicia Molik and Nicole Pratt.

There are two other Australian women. Evie Dominikovic, the best-performed Australian female at the French Open, faces Venus Williams's Roland Garros conqueror Vera Zvonavera in the first round.

Wildcard entrant Samantha Stosur meets 1999 champion Davenport.

15,624 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
Venus raises the fashion bar for Wimbledon
Associated Press
Jun. 20, 2003 1:07 p.m.
Venus Williams doesn't just want to outdo sister Serena with her tennis at Wimbledon. She wants to beat her in the fashion stakes, too.
Venus modeled a corset-style white tennis dress on Friday that she'll wear at Wimbledon, starting Monday. All-white except for a navy "RbK" logo on the front, the dress is open-laced up the back to show flesh rather than a bulky sports bra.

Venus designed the Reebok dress together with American fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.

The Williams sisters are known for their love of on-court fashion and glittering accessories, not to mention their domination of women's tennis.

Until the French Open, they had met in four of the previous five Grand Slam finals. Serena won Wimbledon last year, breaking Venus' two-year hold on the title.

Venus said she hoped to have the fashion edge over her sister at Wimbledon after Serena's daring black skintight catsuit stole the headlines at last year's U.S Open.

"Maybe this week I'm ahead of her," Venus said. "That black outfit she wore was wonderful. We look at each other's outfits when they arrive at the house and we decide who has the better outfit."

Von Furstenberg, who became known in American fashion in the 1970s with printed jersey wraparound dresses, said her role was to make the sport "a little prettier.".

"It was important to be part of that and I did have a lot of input into the designs," Venus said. "Things have to be just perfect. If I'm not happy, I'll scream," she joked.

Venus' father, Richard Williams, sat in the front row Friday, videotaping his daughter as she posed for photographers in the dress on a fake grass catwalk.

Venus refused to be drawn on the debate in the British press over the skinny frame of Slovakian player Daniela Hantuchova.

"I really have not concentrated on that. My main goal is to play tennis," she said. "It's imperative to be in shape, but beyond that, I cannot comment on anybody else's shape but my own.

"I do cardiovascular work, I don't really do weights. I dance sometimes. In tennis you don't have to be bulky but flexible. You don't want to become the Incredible Hulk.

"If you don't look good, you don't feel good."

Venus said it was strange not to be involved in the French Open final, where Justine Henin-Hardenne beat fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters. Venus lost to Russia's Vera Zvonareva in the fourth round - she's projected to play her again the in the fourth round at Wimbledon - while Serena fell to Henin-Hardenne in the semis.

"After I wasn't in the tournament, I transferred all my hopes to Serena," Venus said. "I don't know if I was more upset with my loss or her loss. You definitely learn more when you lose. To win everything throughout your whole career is almost impossible. We're not going to bounce back because I don't think we bounced out to be honest."

Venus dismissed any talk of retirement

"I have a lot of years left," she said. "The joy is to keep challenging yourself to keep on the top. If there was no challenge there would be no joy. I think she (Serena) is a great player for sure but I don't see why I shouldn't be around much longer. I don't know why this is a thought in anyone's mind."

15,624 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
PRO GAME: The Venus Trap

6/20/03 0:01 AM

Venus Williams always wanted the best for her little sister. Now that Serena has become the best women's player in the world, does Venus have the nerve to fight back?

By Bruce Schoenfeld

Photos by Ron Angle

Excerpted from the July 2003 issue of TENNIS Magazine

A stadium full of fans sat spellbound in the Florida sunshine this March, watching Serena Williams overwhelm Jennifer Capriati in the final of the Nasdaq-100 Open with a furious barrage of winners. But Williams' most ardent fan was conspicuous by her absence. Venus Williams spent the match within easy driving distance of Key Biscayne, about a hundred miles north on I-95—holed up, in all likelihood, behind the porticoed facade of the office center in Palm Beach County that houses her V Starr Interiors decorating firm.

Venus had no reason to see Serena win another tournament. Over the past 12 months, she'd watched from the other side of the net as her little sister took her place as the best woman player in the world. Venus had lost to Serena in the final of four consecutive majors, as well as the Nasdaq-100 a year ago, so she could envision well enough what this one might look like. It wasn't as if Serena, who hadn't lost a match in the first three months of 2003, needed her moral support.

It hadn't been a good week for Venus in any sense. Upset by N0. 22-ranked Meghann Shaughnessy in the quarterfinals in Key Biscayne, where she usually plays well, she knew that her world ranking was set to drop to No. 3, behind Serena and Kim Clijsters. Still, almost everyone believes that Venus, 23, remains the second-best player in the world, with a curious asterisk: She's also the second-best player in the Palm Beach Gardens house she shares with Serena, who's 15 months younger.

Seventeen months earlier, Venus had made her debut atop the WTA rankings. She'd already won and then defended the two grandest titles in the Slam, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. She'd signed a reported $40 million multiyear contract with Reebok, the largest endorsement deal in women's sports history. Her face graced billboards and magazine covers. Though she'd been upset in the Roland Garros final by Serena, she was favored to win a third straight Wimbledon.

If Venus can be said to have a proprietary interest in any tournament, it's Wimbledon. As a child she fantasized about winning it. When she did win, in 2000, it was her first major. The quiet dignity of the event fits her measured personality, just as the frenzied atmosphere of the U.S. Open in New York suits Serena's appetite for attention. The Wimbledon women's champion's plate is even named the Venus Rosewater Dish.

Yet on the Monday after last year's tournament ended, much of that no longer mattered. Serena had swept through the draw and lifted Venus' title in a one-sided final. By holding the Venus Rosewater high over her own head, Serena also had fulfilled her father's prediction that she would be the better player. When that week's WTA rankings were released, Serena held the top spot. She remains there, and has already spent more time at No. 1 than Venus.

Venus won three tour events in the months that followed, yet many feel she hasn't been the same player. Jelena Dokic, after watching Williams lose to Shaughnessy at the Nasdaq-100, said, "I think Venus has gone down. She hasn't won a major title in a year and I think we can see a little bit of a lapse in her game. I don't think she is as solid as she was before."

Even apart from the V Starr Interiors office, with its oil paintings by Russian modernists, Venus surely occupies the strangest place in tennis, caught between affection for her sister and her own ambition. By any measure, she's still a formidable player: As of this spring, she'd played in the finals of eight of the last 11 majors, while finishing each of the past four years no lower than No. 3.

Yet these days, she's easier to spot at the Publix supermarket near her home than on the court. Rarely in tennis history has a standout player seemed so elusive. She skipped Scottsdale, boycotted Indian Wells because of the uproar two years ago after she defaulted to her sister, passed on Amelia Island and Sarasota, and wouldn't think of intruding on Serena's title defense in Charleston. At the same time, her interior decorating business is taking off. Earlier this year, The New York Times Magazine published an article on her decorating ambitions, publicity that would be all but impossible to buy at any price. She's studying for an interior-design degree through Rhodec International, a London-based correspondence school.

When Venus was a child, her parents cautioned her to maintain a balanced life, at one point halting her tennis instruction because she seemed too obsessed with the game. She got the message. This January, while her rivals were playing video games at the Australian Open, she was pushing through a textbook called Economics Explained. It's a wise choice for the budding entrepreneur, but those who have watched her over the last few months can't help but ask questions about her commitment to tennis. As Venus herself writes in the brochure for V Starr Interiors, "In today's world, balance is not easily attained."

Until last year, Venus had always assumed the leadership role among the five Williams sisters, though she's the second youngest, behind Yetunde, 30, Isha, 29, and Lyndrea, 24. Serena in particular was drawn by Venus' gravitational pull. As Serena admitted on Oprah, "There were two Venus Williams in the Williams family."

Those days are long gone. Asserting her independence, Serena recently purchased a $1.4 million two-bedroom condominium of her own in Los Angeles, where she spends time when she isn't on tour or in Florida with Venus. After years of sublimating her personality, Serena has come into her own as the No. 1 player in the world in a way Venus never did.

Serena feels comfortable hopping from a car to sign autographs for a group of squealing preteens, as she did at Key Biscayne earlier this year, or having an impromptu chat about American and French hostilities over the war in Iraq—complete with French accent. She poses in bright orange pants in Parade, talks up beauty accessories in Vogue, calls the editors of Sports Illustrated to volunteer for the swimsuit issue (they accepted). She's said to be working with an acting coach, but what more could she possibly have to learn?

Like her mother, Oracene Price, Venus is private, bordering on inscrutable, but Serena clearly has inherited father Richard's lust for the limelight. "Serena likes the attention," Venus says. "I didn't like it so much, but she's more of an outgoing person."

Her most dramatic statements of late have been made to Venus on the court. After losing in four of their first five meetings as pros, Serena had won five in a row entering the 2003 clay-court season. Once tentative, she now brings a special savagery to bear in matches with Venus, asserting herself with tomahawked winners and violent serves. The wild shrieks that accompany those shots sound like primal-scream therapy sessions—which, in a sense, they are.

"It's never been easy for me to play Venus," Serena admits. "Beating her was a bit of a mental block for me. To finally win a match against Venus in a big tournament was a pretty big confidence booster. I learned that it's OK to do well against your sister."

Venus hasn't worked through whatever conflicts she feels as neatly—or as profitably—as that. You can see it on the court, hear it in her voice. "I want to win," she says, "but I want her to win also, because . . . basically I want the best for her."

The relationship with her sister that Venus is seeking to protect is one of uncanny closeness. "They really do get along, all the time," Isha says. "They live together, they hang out together. Very rarely will one of them do something the other isn't involved in." When they play doubles together, they spend changeovers hiding smiles behind their hands like conspiring schoolgirls. Away from each other, they talk by cellphone throughout the day. It must take an extraordinary act of will for Venus to put distance between her feelings for Serena and the rankings the WTA publishes each week.

"My goal has always been to be No. 1 in the world," Venus says. "But not to take the No. 1 ranking from my sister."

Yet if Venus is to get back to the top, that's exactly what she'll have to do. The family dynamics involved could fill an entire session at a psychologists' conference. "Here are these intensely competitive young women, and only one of them can be the best," says family psychologist Peter Goldenthal, Ph.D., the author of Beyond Sibling Rivalry (Owl Books) and a weekend tennis player and fan. "And yet, when Venus was No. 1 they had an excellent relationship, and now that Serena is No. 1 they still have an excellent relationship. This is not typical."

Venus insists she remains her sister's protector. "If Serena has a problem, I take care of it," she says. She can't help noticing how much Serena is enjoying her run as No. 1, and she might be loath to spoil it. "My interpretation is not that Venus is letting her sister win," Goldenthal says. "Perhaps what she is saying with her actions is that she doesn't want her fierce on-court competitiveness to undermine her close relationship with Serena." As motivational problems go, this one is unique. It's safe to say Martina never anguished over the prospect of beating Chrissie.


15,624 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
More aggressive style may be in order
By Cynthia Faulkner

For Venus Williams, it comes down to commitment and confidence.

Commitment, in this sense, is not about off-court distractions. It's about being aggressive on the court -- and the belief that taking a risk will work.

Serena, left, has gotten the better of her sister Venus recently.

"She's got to go to net more with that wingspan," Billie Jean King said at the Fed Cup in April. "She's a 21st-century Althea Gibson. It's exactly what Althea used to do is blanket the net. That's what Venus should be doing. She's incredible. She's got a really good volley. & She's got to do it to be the best she can be."

While the rest of the women's tennis tour has worked to step up their games to reach the standard that sister Serena has set, Venus is no longer playing at her best. At the French Open, Venus fell in the quarterfinals with 12 double faults and 75 unforced errors. It was a flashback to how she played in 1999, when she lost in two quarterfinals, a fourth round and one semifinal (at the U.S. Open) in the majors.

Since then, she's won four Grand Slam titles and has been in the finals of three others in 12 tries. But there's hope. Venus' best chance to once again compete with her sister is at Wimbledon, which begins Monday. Her game is especially suited to the serve-volley game of grass. When she's at the net, she can stretch out her arm and literally have half the court covered. It's a huge advantage.

If she remembers to use it.

"I think I should have played smarter," Venus said after losing in Paris. "Looking back, I maybe could have come into the net more, like if I had a lot of floaters, things like that.

"I don't think I was thinking about coming in," she said. "That's bad. I don't really even think I was."

That's not what Fed Cup captain King wants to hear. King and Fed Cup coach Zina Garrison worked hard with Venus -- and Serena -- on making the commitment to come to net in Lowell, Mass., in April.

"I am on Venus, and Zina is on Venus so bad," King said. "With that wingspan, we're going: 'Hello? Are you going to serve-volley because if you don't serve-volley you're kidding yourself. That would make you the best if you go up (to net). Like the best you can be.'"

Venus is struggling to find her best these days. She's dropped to fourth in the world rankings. She hasn't won a title since February. She hasn't won a Grand Slam final since 2001, despite being runner-up in four of the past five.

"I feel like I'm going forward," Venus said. "I always feel like I'm going forward. I feel like there isn't always a time where things can be a hundred percent. And for a couple of years, I had a hundred percent a lot of the times. But when you lose and when you have tougher times, it makes you stronger and moving forward.

"And I still feel that I'm doing those things."

King says Venus is comfortable coming to the net, but doesn't out of habit.

"It's really a mind-set," King said. "It's also being able to take a risk and making the commitment early."

But does Venus have the mind-set she needs to win? Venus' demeanor on court has never been as flamboyant as her sister, but lately she seems to be going through the motions. It's apparant on the court and even in the difference in how each reacted to losing at the French Open. Venus answered questions calmly and flatly answered while Serena, who, granted, had more at stake, broke into tears. That fire is missing in Venus.

How Serena and Venus Williams have fared in the last 13 Grand Slam events:
Event Serena Venus
Aussie '00 4R DNP
French '00 DNP QF
Wimbledon '00 SF Win
U.S. Open '00 QF Win
Aussie '01 QF SF
French '01 QF 1R
Wimbledon '01 QF Win
U.S. Open '01 F Win
Aussie '02 DNP QF
French '02 Win F
Wimbledon '02 Win F
U.S. Open '02 Win F
Aussie '03 Win F
French '03 SF 4R
Legend: F = Lost in Finals; SF = Semifinals; QF = Quarterfinals; 4R = Fourth Round; 1R = First Round

"This could be true," Venus said. "It's hard to always know what you look like (on court) unless you watch the films. And sometimes others can see and you don't see. So I have to have input from, you know, my coaches, definitely watch my film and see what I'm doing and what I'm like."

Venus' game used to be all about aggression. Often, she went for a second-serve with first-serve strength. During her stretch of four Grand Slam title sin six events, she was 5aking the risk.

Now she struggles from her serve toss to shot placement. She is winless in her last five Grand Slam finals.

She needs to find the game she once had as well as find a new weapon to use, especially against Baby Sis. King thinks she can do it by heading for the net.

"It's about getting this generation of players to make that commitment in their mind before the ball bounces they have to go," King said. "And you live and die with whatever. Great serve-volleyers know that sometimes you're going to make a lousy approach shot, but you've made the commitment -- and you gotta live with it.

"But it's only one point."

Questions about whether she should change coaches are frequently thrown at Venus in news conferences and she often reacts as if they are an insult to her father, Richard. However, might she benefit from hearing perhaps the same thing in a different way.

"It's very, very helpful to hear it, hear someone say the same thing but in a different way," Venus said referring to her week at Fed Cup with King and Garrison. "Because I've been working with my coaches for years and years, and sometimes it can just go in one ear and out the other ear, you don't really hear what they're saying."

Venus enjoyed the entire Fed Cup experience so much she has committed to playing at Washington, D.C., in July. And Venus seemed, for the first time in a while, to have fun playing whether it was because of the team atmosphere or playing with her sister instead of competing against her.

And despite Serena's success -- three straight Grand Slam titles to end last year -- while she's struggled, Venus says she's fine with the relationship.

"I feel really good that she's doing well, to be honest," Venus said. "It's really encouraging for me. I would like her to do well, and hopefully be the victor at (the French Open).

"That would be nice."

"Venus and Serena are first and foremost sisters, and very loving sisters," King said. "Also Venus, being the older one, has always taken care of Serena. I think the most important thing that Venus needs to remember is that she needs to take care of her tennis and herself, too. Not to say don't always take care of your baby sister, but I think it's important for Venus to always have tennis in her life, as well, and sometimes I think it's harder for the older one to remember."

Despite the constant comparisons, when it comes down to it, Venus is different from her sister. Serena has admitted she'd like to make her mark in tennis history; Venus seems to think it's less important.

"I don't exactly think of my legacy too much," she said. "I'm a Jehovah's Witness and I'm a Christian. I don't really think that this life is the only thing that happens. So I want to be a good person, live up to God's standards, do my best in my career, whatever I do. How people remember me is not as important to me."

Cynthia Faulkner is the tennis editor at

15,624 Posts
Discussion Starter #18

U.S. tennis star Venus Williams models her new outfit for Wimbledon in central London, June 20, 2003. The 23-year-old returns to play at the 2003 Wimbledon tournament, which starts on Monday, after twice winning the competition in 2000 and 2001. REUTERS/Michael Crabtree
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